March For Our Lives: Huge gun-control rallies sweep US

Students gathered on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue ahead of the march

Mass student-led protests calling for tighter gun control are under way across the United States.

The protests – under the banner March For Our Lives – have grown out of a movement calling for change after 17 people were killed by a gunman at a high school in Florida last month.

Half a million people are expected to descend on the biggest march in Washington DC.

More than 800 sister protests are planned nationwide and abroad.

Solidarity marches have taken place in London, Edinburgh, Geneva, Sydney and Tokyo.

Organisers have said it may become “standing room only” for the main event in Washington, as the swelling crowds could make it hard to move.

Participants want to seize on public outrage in the wake of the 14 February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to convince US politicians to finally take decisive action, including by banning the sale of assault weapons.

However, the issue divides Americans. The right to bear arms is protected under the 2nd amendment of the US constitution and the National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby remains highly influential.

President Donald Trump is at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, the White House released a statement praising the “many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today”.

It also cited steps it is taking to tackle gun violence, including banning bump stocks, plus enacting the STOP School Violence Act, which seeks to improve school security and increase training for students, staff and local law enforcement.

There are also plans to improve criminal background records so gun buyers are properly vetted before making a purchase.

Organisers say up to half a million people could rally in Washington DC, which would make it the largest protest since last year’s women’s march.

Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson are set to perform.

Impassioned youth leaders have been taking to the stage to call for change, including 17-year-old Edna Chavez, whose brother was shot and killed in a south Los Angeles neighbourhood where, she said, it was normal to see flowers and tributes on the streets.

“We will continue to fight for our dead friends,” said speaker Delaney Tarr, a Parkland student.

The BBC’s Jon Sopel in Washington says the protesters there have strung out lines of photographs of students and teachers killed in school shootings.

A demonstration has also been held in Parkland, with relatives of the victims speaking to crowds.

‘My lost soulmate’

By Marianna Brady, BBC News, Washington

The crowds started to gather in the early hours of the morning outside the US Capitol. Chants for “no more NRA” and “no more guns” erupt every few minutes at random.

“He was my soulmate,” said Victoria Gonzalez, looking down at a sign of her boyfriend Joaquin Oliver.

Valentine’s Day – 14 February – started off as a great day for Victoria. “Joaquin and I exchanged gifts in the morning and he walked me to class. I was so happy.”

Later that day, she would learn that Joaquin was one of 17 people shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school.

“It wasn’t real. It’s taken a while for it to sink in. I’m here today so no one ever has to face this again,” she said, standing in a crowd of several thousand ahead of the march.

“It gives me a lot of hope seeing how many people are out here supporting us. It feels like the whole entire world is on our side,” Victoria said.

 

Source: bbc.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.