On March 24, surviving victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting as well as activists around the country marched on Washington. The attendees marched for safety, protection of their children and gun reform. In Huntsville, the Walker County Democrats organized a local protest and marched in Downtown Huntsville. Across the world, 817 marches took place.
“[Our purpose was] to support teachers, who have overwhelmingly said that they do not wish to be made to carry guns to protect their students, on top of everything else they already have to do,” Walker County Democrat Andie Ho said.
Teachers around the nation have shown large opposition to the proposal to carry weapons.
The survivors of the Parkland shooting have been instrumental in national conversations on gun control. The students visited President Trump, took part in a CNN town hall with the head of the NRA and appeared on TV shows such as “Real Time with Bill Maher.”
Last week, students across the country took part in school walkouts as a show of solidarity with Parkland victims and a demand for school safety. The Parkland students have been compared to the young people who took part in the Civil Rights movement and marched on Washington, or the youth protesting the Vietnam War.
“Protests are a fundamental American right,” Ho said. “And in this case, they are an important way to inform local representatives of our opinions and to let like-minded folks know where to find us. It is vital for our youth to be involved and to think critically about the world around them. After all, it’s their future at stake. In many countries, it is the young people who most often take to the streets and stand up for what they believe is right. I’m happy to see this tradition being continued.”
The national march was organized by Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez, who took part in the CNN town hall and has become the face of the national revolution.
“The kids from Parkland and from all across this country are taking to the streets to try and make our future safe,” Gonzalez wrote on the March for Our Lives website. “But we can’t do it alone. We need your help to amplify our message. My friends were gunned down in cold blood as well as countless others from Chicago to Detroit to Sandy Hook. So now the young people in this country have been given a mission and I hope in some way it’s your mission too. We need our voices heard by as many people as possible. We need them to come to our March in DC. We need them to sign our petition to stop these murders. This isn’t a political rally. It’s literally a march for our lives. Please help us amplify our voices by using yours. Be part of this moment in time. I believe the young people in this country can change the world. And wouldn’t that be something?”
The local march began at the Walker County Democrats headquarters, across from the Walker County courthouse. Marchers met at 10 a.m. to make signs and stand on various streets in solidarity with marchers worldwide.
The Huntsville march was organized by local Democratic chapter Vice President Dorthy Willet and others.
“The march was organized by several members of the Walker County Democrats Club,” Ho said. “The biggest challenge was getting out the word about the march, which is something we’re still working on (and taking ideas for).”
The event coincided with the Bacon and Brew festival, which took place in Downtown Huntsville. The chapter feared conflict with festival attendees, so a police presence was instated. Marchers were present all-day Saturday and came and went as they pleased.
The march took place on the same day as the local Democrats convention, selecting delegates to the state Democratic convention and proposing resolutions to add to the state Democratic Party’s stances. Despite this, Ho did not see an impact and was surprised by the turnout.
“Though the Democratic County Convention took place on the same day, I don’t think it impacted attendance very much,” Ho said. “Some people attended both. The turnout was excellent, probably about 70 people when you include children. We were very happy with the turnout, though we strive to break records with every new march. For a town the size of Huntsville, that’s very good.”
The club has taken part in several national marches, organized locally, including the Women’s March, last year’s tax march and marches raising awareness for climate change.
By all accounts, the march was considered a great success.
“The march was a huge success.” Ho said. “Attendees were energized and motivated to do more in the future, not just for this cause, but for other causes they believe in.”
Despite taking place during the Bacon and Brew Fest, and in a rural, conservative town like Huntsville, the local reaction was generally positive.
“The feedback we received was largely supportive.” Ho said. “One man stopped to ask what we were protesting, and though he has owned guns all his life, he agreed with our stance.”
Of course, some objected to the march or took issue with the march being organized by Democrats, seeing it as a bipartisan issue, though, it is highly supported on the left.
Overall, the conversation about gun control and gun rights is not going away any time soon. Though mass shootings are nothing new, this time is different, and the political motivation of the Parkland survivors is leading the charge.
Ho spoke of the importance of critical thinking when it comes to politics.
“Even though our country is currently deeply divided between right and left, don’t let that make you think you have to pick one side,” Ho said. “Instead, think carefully about what you believe on each individual issue, even if it doesn’t match what anybody else is saying on the news or on social media.”