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‘Never again’: Students in lead, huge crowds march against gun violence in US

Hundreds of thousands of students joined the pro-gun control March for Our Lives rallies across the US in one of the largest expressions of popular opposition in the modern era.

world Updated: Mar 25, 2018 10:27 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
March of our lives,Gun control,US
Gun reform advocates line Pennsylvania Avenue while attending the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.(AFP Photo)

Every recent incident of school shooting was hand-written along with the names of each victim on the 10-foot paper banner. The headline read: #NOTONEMORE. And the bottomline: #MARCHFOROURLIVES.

It was a while before Cowen Shaughnissy, a 17-year-old high-schooler from Philadelphia, who was holding up the banner with his brother and a neighbour, realised why they were getting so much attention.

Late to the march, they had grabbed the first open spot they could find: Right in front of Trump International, a short distance from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Asked if they expected President Donald Trump to help change gun laws as he had seemed inclined briefly, Cowen shook his head. His brother Connor turned away with a grimace.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans marched and held rallies around the country on Saturday with a new resolve to change gun laws, as school students lead the push in the aftermath of the February 14 killing of 14 students in a Florida high school.

According to organisers, over 800 March For Our Lives events were held in the US and around the globe -- from the United Kingdom across the Atlantic to India, Japan, Ghana, Australia, Vietnam, Argentina, Israel and many other countries.

“There is strength in numbers, and we need each and every one of you to keep screaming at your own congressman,” Jaclyn Corin, a student of the Florida school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, said at the Washington DC event.

“We cannot keep America great if we cannot keep America safe,” she said, playing on Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign slogan.

Miley Cyrus performs ‘The Climb’ during the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo)

Cameron Kasky, another student from the Florida school, said, “To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent and wait your turn, welcome to the revolution.”

An undercurrent of disappointment and disgust with politicians ran through the crowds.

“I hope the politicians deliver this time and not stand in the way of these kids,” said Natalie Miller, whose silver hair glistened in the bright sunlight as she sat in her wheelchair.

“I’m with the kids,” read a sign resting in her lap.

Was she hopeful? “I have been to too many of these.”

There had been 17 school shootings in 2018 before February 14 and four more since them, claiming in all 27 lives.

“Never again, Never again,” crowds chanted at Pennsylvania Avenue, as speakers, including mass shooting survivors and celebrities, addressed them from a stage far beyond for most to see. Most marchers crowded around giant screens lining the street.

Others simply stood or walked around holding up placards. “Am I next?” read one held up by a student. “I shouldn’t be scared to go to school” said the one held up by her friend. “Protect kids not guns,” said another.

And one left against a tree trunk read: “USA not NRA.” The reference was to the National Rifle Association, which heads the mighty gun lobby that has blocked any effort to reforms the country’s lax gun laws, arguing that even the smallest change was a step towards taking away the right to bear arms.

The NRA, which enjoys support among most Republicans and some Democrats, criticised the marches in a Facebook post. It said “gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites” were behind the protests and were “manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones”.

First Published: Mar 25, 2018 07:15 IST