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March for Our Lives: Students around the country rally against gun violence

By
Brooks Hays and Susan McFarland
Participants of the March for Our Lives rally walk down Pennsylvania Avenue after the rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of thousands rallied in the nation's capital to demand action to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools. Photo by Mark Wallheiser /UPI
Participants of the March for Our Lives rally walk down Pennsylvania Avenue after the rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of thousands rallied in the nation's capital to demand action to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools. Photo by Mark Wallheiser /UPI | License Photo

March 24 (UPI) -- Student activists continued their push an end to gun violence on Saturday, with thousands gathering at March for Our Lives protests organized in cities across the country and world.

While marchers took to the streets in dozens of cities, the largest gathering began at midday in Washington, D.C. Thousands of protesters assembled on the streets of the nation's capital.

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Tears, cheers, and strength in numbers gave power to participants, who gave lawmakers a strong message -- "get your resumes ready" and "we will all be voting soon."

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students, the school that lost 17 lives Feb.14 from a mass shooting, gave impassioned speeches.

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During the Washington rally, David Hogg referenced lawmakers during his speech to the crowd, saying "you can hear the people in power shaking."

"They've gotten used to being protective of their position, the safety of inaction," Hogg said. "To those politicians supported by the NRA that allow the continued slaughter of our children and our future, I say get your resumes ready."

Stoneman Douglas high school student Emma Gonzalez, stood on stage at the event for 6 minutes and 20 seconds speaking about the event that would forever alter many lives.

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"Since the time that I came out here," she said, "it has been 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest," Gonzalez said.

"Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job," she said, before leaving the stage.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky read the names of classmates and teachers who died in the shooting, ending with Nicholas Dworet, who would have turned 18 Saturday.

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"Nicholas, we are all here for you," Kasky said. "Happy birthday."

Also wishing her classmate a happy birthday, was shooting survivor Samantha Fuentes, who got choked up while addressing the crowd in Washington, which had more than 500,000 people.

"Lawmakers and politicians will scream guns are not the issue," Fuentes said, before stopping to throw up on stage.

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After she regained her composure, she finished her speech, at first acknowledging her nerve problem before her emotional plea to "save one another."

"I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!"

Parkland survivor Delaney Tarr said Saturday's event was more than just a march.

"This is more than just one day ... this is a movement," the 17-year-old told the crowd.

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Students were joined by parents and teachers, many with signs decrying assault weapons and the gun lobby, to protest the threat of mass violence facing American school children.

The growing movement against gun violence was sparked by the survivors-turned-activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, who have challenged both lawmakers and the National Rifle Association. Their response to the shooting deaths of 17 people at their South Florida school has moved other U.S. teenagers to similarly call for gun-control reform.

Three survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting joined a couple hundred others for a similar demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel on Friday.

"What these [Stoneman Douglas] kids have done has been so impressive," Carolyn DeWitt, president of Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan group that organizes voter registration drives, told the Sun Sentinel. "Their voices have had an impact across generations, across races, across people who aren't even old enough to vote and who aren't usually thought of as civically aware."

A total of 843 related protests were planned for Saturday, at least one in every state and every continent except Antarctica. A number of celebrities, including actor George Clooney and musician Paul McCartney, who spoke about the shooting death of bandmate John Lennon at a march in New York City, have supported the movement. A map of the hundreds of scheduled protests can be found at the March for Our Lives website.

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According to the March for Our Lives mission statement, the protesters "demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues."

Although the official protest language doesn't offer specifics on gun control measures, many of the protesters want high-powered firearms like the AR-15 assault rifle to be outlawed. The student activists have also called for solutions such as bullet-proof glass in school windows and doors.

At a rally in Parkland, Florida, on Saturday, Sari Kaufman, a Stoneman Douglas sophomore, implored protesters to vote politicians who accept money form the National Rifle Association out of office.

"They think we're all talk and no action," she said. "Remember that policy change is not nearly as difficult as losing a loved one. Don't just go out and vote: Get 17 other people to go out and vote."

The White House issued a statement on Saturday about the march, applauding "the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today."

"Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence Acts, and signed them into law. Additionally, on Friday, the Department of Justice issued the rule to ban bump stocks following through on the Presidents commitment to ban devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns."

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