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March for Our Lives
Valentine’s Day, 2018, began like any other ordinary day. Suddenly, the lives of students, families, and faculty at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, USA, were transformed…forever.
A former student returned to the school, stalked the hallways with an AR-15-style rifle, and killed 14 young people and three staff members.
David Hogg wasn’t in the same building but he heard the shots and went running in search of his sister. They both made it out alive, but four of her friends didn’t. David never heard grief-stricken sobs before that day.
Jacklyn Corin cannot forget the pandemonium: screaming students running in all directions, panicked parents flooding into the school parking lot desperate to find their children.
Emma Gonzalez heard that her friend since the third grade had been shot. The news sent shock waves through her heart. But she could do nothing to help, forced, along with many others, to “get on the floor!” and “keep your hands up and your heads down!” by uniformed authorities that had rushed to the scene.
Matt Deitsch says that before the shooting, Parkland (population 30K), was one of the safest places in Florida. “If the epidemic of gun violence can happen here, it can happen anywhere in this country.”
In the days after the shooting, David, Emma, Jaclyn, and Matt, along with Stoneman Douglas students Sarah Chadwick, Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr, and Alexander Blakewind, were determined to take action so that their peers will not have died in vain. They decided to force a much-needed discussion of gun-control to the US national agenda. In the preceding nine years, there had been 288 school shootings in the US. The Parkland Four were determined that this would be the last. They determined, too, that they should lead the charge, that young people should remain at the core of their mission in order to remain immune to co-optation by wealthy special interest groups.
Together with their friends, David, Emma, Jaclyn, and Matt co-founded March For Our Lives, the impetus behind an unprecedented day of action, on March 24, 2018, when hundreds of thousands descended on Washington — causing more than 800 sister marches to erupt in all 50 US states and around the globe — to demand peaceful solutions for safer schools and communities. Over the summer of 2018, the group organized a nationwide voter registration tour, visiting more than 80 communities in 2 months, and registering at least 10,000 new voters who will carry their message to the ballot box. Today, March For Our Lives activists are busy compelling US legislators to change gun laws forever.
The number of school shootings in the US is 57 times more than Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the UK put together. Since their movement began, more than 25 US states have passed some form of gun violence legislation consistent with the groups goals, including a Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, which passed statewide gun restrictions for the first time in two decades.
For their selfless efforts on behalf of children everywhere, who they demand must be able to look to their schools as safe places, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students received the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize last November 2018. Anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, presented the group with the award, stating he considered the March For Our Lives movement to be one of the most significant instances of youth-led activism in recent memory:
“They are the true change-makers who have demonstrated most powerfully that children can move the world.”
The heart of the organization now consists of more than 20 young people who manage more than 1200 local teams from a central office. These teens understand that to truly make a difference, you need to speak up, be loud, and mobilize people to support your cause if you wish to force a change in the dynamics of the public debate. That’s exactly what the Parkland Four have done.
We are so grateful to you four and to all your friends. Keep fighting the Good Fight. Know that we march with you. Always.