Hundreds of thousands covered the streets of the nation’s capital Saturday to join the March For Our Lives. Marchers, some as young as six, armed themselves with signs and a simple message: enough is enough.
Teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School organized the march after a former student used an AR-15 to open fire in the school. He killed 17 people—all of whom were recognized during speeches throughout the rally.
It was a rally that drew more than 800,000 people, according to organizers. And it was one that sparked dozens of sister marches across the country. If the estimate is correct, March for Our Lives will have been the largest single-day protest in Washington, D.C.’s history. The march was planned just weeks after the deadly school shooting.
Ted Deutch, Parkland’s congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, stood with survivors in D.C.
“It has had such a powerful impact on our community,” he said. “Yet, in the midst of this, these student survivors have started to build a movement.”
Deutch added that his town is still grieving the losses.
“When this happened… it affected everybody. Parkland is the kind of place where everyone wants to live in and where people know each other. People were affected by this,” he said.
In addition to lawmakers, celebrities—from George Clooney to Miley Cyrus—backed Parkland survivors with donations and musical performances. Organizers also joined forces with other school shooting survivors and activists from around the nation.
Among the activists was Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., who—drawing on her grandfather’s “I Have a Dream Speech”—shouted that she too “has a dream that enough is enough.”
According to many, it was kids like King who were the driving forces behind the movement’s positive energy and momentum.
“The kids are leading this. It’s not angry, it’s determined,” said Sara Pratt, a native of Washington D.C. “It’s really powerful and it makes a big difference.”
Kids and teenagers who spoke to Temple Update had varying reasons for participating. Fourteen-year-old Jacob Morose wants change. He said “…when I go to school, I want to feel safe and I want to feel like I’m going to beokay.”
Twelve-year-old Chicagoan Jane Brunson said the issue is important to her. “I go to school and I don’t want to live in fear that I’m going to one day hide from someone who is in our school,” she said.
And 14-year-old Gavis Sisler wants to be part of history. “This is one of the next movements in our history and I want to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s a big part of our lives, our young lives, as kids. So it’s really important that we can get this change and help people out.”
In an effort to combat policies that would require educators to carry guns during school hours, a large amount of teachers also joined the rally. Jordyn Goddard, a teacher in the outskirts of Washington D.C., said, “I am here for my students. I am here to exercise my rights for them and my right to protect them without using a firearm in my own classroom.”
Dillon Wiggins, an education major at New York University, agrees. “That’s not in my job description,” he said. “I would throw myself in front of someone with a gun, but… this future teacher says I’ve had enough.”
In addition to “enough is enough,” marchers frequently shouted “vote them out” between performances and speeches. However, Parkland Survivor Emma Gonzales used the power of silence over words in the final speech of the day.
She stood in silence for six minutes — the same amount of time it took the shooter to kill 17 of her classmates. She then shouted “fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job” before exiting the stage.
Brandon Bush, a student at Howard University, said for most, togetherness was the biggest takeaway.
“It’s just a really strong feeling that comes over you when you see all of these kids, when you see all of these adults,” he said. “There are people from different demographics coming together and saying ‘you know what? This is something that needs to stop right now.'”
Congressman Deutch says Saturday’s march was the beginning of a national, withstanding movement and that Congress will take action.
“It’s clear after today that, yes, this is about changing the gun laws, but it’s also about so much more than that,” he said. “I’m going to…use their voices to inspire my colleagues to do the right thing.”