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“One Life Is Worth All the Guns in America”: Students Demand End to Violence at March for Our Lives

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In a historic day of action, more than 800 protests were held Saturday urging lawmakers to pass gun control. In Washington, organizers say 800,000 took part in the March for Our Lives, which was organized by students who survived the February 14 shooting massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In New York, another 150,000 took to the streets; 85,000 rallied in Chicago; 55,000 marched in Los Angeles. Tens of thousands also rallied in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. In Washington, D.C., survivors of gun violence—from Parkland to Chicago—shared the stage to decry the power of the National Rifle Association and to demand an end to the violence. We air highlights of the speeches.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In a historic day of action, there were more than 800 protests on Saturday urging lawmakers to pass gun control. In Washington, D.C., alone, organizers say up to 800,000 people took part in the March for Our Lives, which was organized by students who survived the February 14th shooting massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In New York, another 150,000 people took to the streets; 85,000 rallied in Chicago; 55,000 marched in Los Angeles. Tens of thousands also rallied in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. And 20,000 people gathered in Parkland, Florida.

Demands from the students include a ban on semiautomatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds; a ban on accessories that simulate automatic weapons; the establishment of a database of gun sales and universal background checks; the closing of gun show and secondhand sales loopholes; to allow the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, to make recommendations for gun reform; and raise the firearm purchase age to 21; and to change privacy laws to let mental healthcare providers communicate with law enforcement.

Well, today we air voices from Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Speakers at the march included survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, as well as young people from around the country who have been impacted by gun violence. We begin with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School junior Cameron Kasky, who survived the school shooting on February 14th.

CAMERON KASKY: To the leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to “sit down and stay silent, wait your turn,” welcome to the revolution. It is a powerful and peaceful one, because it is of, by and for the young people of this country.

My name is Cameron Kasky. Since this movement began, people have asked me, “Do you think any change is going to come from this?” Look around. We are the change. Everybody here is standing with the future of our society. And for that, I thank you.

My generation, having spent our entire lives seeing mass shooting after mass shooting, has learned that our voices are powerful, and our votes matter. We must educate ourselves and start conversations that keep our country moving forward. And we will. We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into, and create a better world for the generations to come. Don’t worry, we’ve got this.

The people of this country now see past the lies. We’ve seen this narrative before. For the first time, the corrupt aren’t controlling our story. We are. The corrupt aren’t manipulating the facts. We know the truth. Shooting after shooting, the American people now see one thing they all have in common: the weapons.

Politicians, either represent the people or get out. The people demand a law banning the sale of assault weapons. The people demand we prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines. The people demand universal background checks. Stand for us or beware. The voters are coming.

On February 14th, tragedy struck my hometown and my school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang and Nicholas Dworet all lost their lives in less than seven minutes. And I saved Nicholas for the end, because today is Nicholas’s birthday. Nicholas, we are all here for you. Happy birthday. Their families endured great pain. Many others were injured. And thousands of young people, my classmates, were forced to become adults, and were targeted as adults. We have to do this for them. We must stand beside those we’ve lost, and fix the world that betrayed them.

This doesn’t just happen in schools. Americans are being attacked in churches, nightclubs, movie theaters and on the streets. But we, the people, can fix this. For the first time in a long while, I look forward 10 years, and I feel hope. I see light. I see a system I’ll be proud of. But it all starts with you. The march is not the climax of this movement, it is the beginning. It is the springboard off of which my generation and all who stand with us will jump into a safer future. Today is a bad day for tyranny and corruption. Today, we take to the streets in over 800 marches around the globe and demand commonsense gun laws.

MYA MIDDLETON: I’m Mya, and I’m 16 years old. I’m here because I have been personally affected by the lack of gun control, and I believe guns have taken over the minds of individuals who want an easy way out of their dilemma. Chicago goes through this every day, and you don’t realize how much of a toll it is taking on our city, until you see it in our communities, you see it on someone you know, you see it on someone like me.

Freshman year in high school, I wanted to get some things from the store for my mom, because she was sick. I remember pulling on all these clothes and going out in 10-or-so-degree weather. It was so cold. Get to the store, grabbing all this stuff, thinking, “Maybe she needs this, maybe she needs that,” and finally getting into line.

This guy in front of me all of a sudden gets upset because he didn’t have enough money to pay for the things that he wanted to buy. He gets out of line and starts trashing the store, throwing everything over the floor, pushing carts, just making a fool out of himself.

So, finally, when I check out, I walk to the door, and I’m ready to go, when I hear a scream and a bang. I turn around and see he’s grabbing all this stuff, pushing it into every crevice of his body, trying to grab as much as he can—when he finally turns to me.

He comes towards me, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t think. All I remember is seeing dark jeans coming towards me. He pulls out this silver pistol and points it in my face, and said these words, that to this day haunt me and give me nightmares. He said, “If you said anything, I will find you.” And yet I’m still saying something today.

Guns have long scared our children, corrupted our adults and publicly silenced our government. Guns have become the voice of America, and the government is becoming more negligent by this predicament by the day. Join me in sharing my pain and my anger. Help us by screaming to the government that we are tired of crying for help to a group of people that have turned their backs on us, despite their reassurance of making our country safer.

AMY GOODMAN: Sixteen-year-old Mya Middleton from Chicago, speaking at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. We’ll return with more voices of protest in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Stand Up for Something,” performed by Andra Day and Common on the main stage at Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

More than a million people, in Washington, around the country and around the world, rallied Saturday for the March for Our Lives, calling for gun control, following the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead. We return to highlights from the youth-led rally in Washington. This is student David Hogg, who survived the shooting in Parkland.

DAVID HOGG: Ninety-six people die every day from guns in our country, yet most representatives have no public stance on guns. And to that, we say, “No more!” We are going to make this the voting issue. We are going to take this to every election, to every state and every city. We’re going to make sure the best people get in our elections to run, not as politicians, but as Americans, because this—this is not cutting it.

When people try to suppress your vote, and there are people who stand against you because you’re too young, we say, “No more!” Now is the time to come together, not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans, Americans of the same flesh and blood, that care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s the future of this country and the children that are going to lead it.

Now, they will try to separate us in demographics. They will try to separate us by religion, race, congressional district and class. They will fail. We will come together. We will get rid of these public servants that only serve the gun lobby. And we will save lives! You are those heroes.

SARAH CHADWICK: My name is Sarah Chadwick, and I’m a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This here, $1.05. When you take 3,140,167—the number of students enrolled in Florida schools—and divide it by 3,303,355—the amount of money Marco Rubio has received from the National Rifle Association—it comes out to $1.05. Is that all we’re worth to these politicians? $1.05? Was $17.85 all it cost you that day, Mr. Rubio? Well, I say one life is worth more than all the guns in America.

JACLYN CORIN: My name is Jaclyn Corin, and I am proud to say that Parkland is my home. Parkland is the heart of this movement. But just as a heart needs blood to pump, my hometown needs the alliance of other communities to properly spread this message. We openly recognize that we are privileged individuals and would not have received as much attention if it weren’t for the affluence of our city. Because of that, however, we share the stage, today and forever, with those who have always stared down the barrel of a gun. I actually have a special guest for you guys, so I’m going to come bring her up.

YOLANDA RENEE KING: My name is Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period.

Will you please repeat these words after me? Spread the word!

CROWD: Spread the word!

YOLANDA RENEE KING: Have you heard?

CROWD: Have you heard?

YOLANDA RENEE KING: All across the nation!

CROWD: All across the nation!

YOLANDA RENEE KING: We!

CROWD: We!

YOLANDA RENEE KING: Are going to be!

CROWD: Are going to be!

YOLANDA RENEE KING: A great generation!

CROWD: A great generation!

EDNA LIZBETH CHÁVEZ: Hola, buenas tardes. My name is Edna Lizbeth Chávez, and I am from South Los Angeles, California, el sur de Los Ángeles. I am a 17-year-old senior at Manual Arts High School. I am a youth leader. I am a survivor. I have lived in South L.A. my entire life and have lost many loved ones to gun violence. This is normal, normal to the point that I have learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read.

My brother, he was in high school when he passed away. It was a day like any other day, sunset going down on South Central. You hear pops, thinking they’re fireworks. They weren’t pops. You see the melanin on your brother’s skin turn gray. Ricardo was his name. Can y’all say it with me?

CROWD: Ricardo!

EDNA LIZBETH CHÁVEZ: I lost more than my brother that day. I lost my hero. I also lost my mother, my sister and myself to that trauma and that anxiety. If the bullet did not kill me, that anxiety and that trauma will. I carry that trauma everywhere I go. I carry it with me in schools, in class, walking home and visiting loved ones.

And I am not alone in this experience. For decades, my community of South Los Angeles has become accustomed to this violence. It is normal to see candles. It is normal to see posters. It is normal to see balloons. It is normal to see flowers honoring the lives of black and brown youth that have lost their lives to a bullet.

How can we cope with it, when our school district has its own police department? Instead of making black and brown students feel safe, they continue to profile and criminalize us. Instead, we should have a department specializing in restorative justice. Policymakers, listen up. Arming teachers will not work! More security in our schools does not work! Zero-tolerance policies do not work! They make us feel like criminals. We should feel empowered and supported in our schools. Instead of funding these policies, fund mentorship programs, mental health resources, paid internship and job opportunities.

ALEX WIND: My name is Alex Wind. I’m a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the wake of the tragedy on February 14th, we, as students, as youths, decided that if adults weren’t going to take action, we would. No gun-related legislation has been passed in this country since 2008, 10 years ago. Since 2008, there have been at least 95 mass shootings in this country.

People believe that the youth of this country are insignificant. People believe that the youths have no voice. When Joan of Arc fought back English forces, she was 17 years old. When Mozart wrote his first symphony, he was 8 years old. To those people that tell us that teenagers can’t do anything, I say that we were the only people that could have made this movement possible.

Together, we will use our voices to make sure that our schools, churches, movie theaters and concerts, and our streets become safer, without having them feel like prisons. If teachers start packing heat, are they going to arm our pastors, ministers and rabbis? Are they going to arm the guy scanning tickets at the movie theater? Are they going to arm the person wearing the Mickey Mouse costume at Disney? This is what the National Rifle Association wants, and we will not stand for it!

ZION KELLY: My name is Zion Kelly, and I’m a senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy here in Washington, D.C. I’m here to represent the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of students who live every day in constant paranoia and fear on their way to and from school.

At this moment, please raise your hand if you have been affected by gun violence, to honor the ones you have lost. Today, I raise my hand in honor of my twin brother, Zaire Kelly. Zaire was shot on September 20th, 2017, on his way home from a competitive college counseling after-school program called College Bound. Zaire had the personality that would light up the room. He was energetic and full of dreams and aspirations. He was our team captain on the track team. He was running for student government president, and he was a youth councilmember. He aspired to be a forensic scientist and attend Florida A&M University for undergrad. Zaire was also the best dresser I knew, with the most style. He was a person, a leader, an inspirer, not just another statistic.

I was in contact with Zaire while he was walking home, texting him and calling him all through the night. About 20 to 30 minutes went by, and I became worried, because the walk alone doesn’t even take 30 minutes. I left my room to ask my mom where he was, until I saw flashing blue and red lights outside my window. I told my parents that there were police cars and an ambulance on our street. We rushed outside, discovering that it was Zaire.

That night, on September 20th, a robber with a gun was lurking on my streets for hours. On my way—on my walk home, he attempted to rob me, but I ran. Though he had an ankle monitor on and he was supposed to be monitored by the police, he was still able to obtain a gun illegally and lurk in my streets and take my brother’s life. He shot my brother in the head. Once we arrived to the hospital, he was pronounced dead.

From the time we were born, we shared everything, including issues. I spent time with him every day, because we went to the same school, shared the same friends, and we even shared the same room. Can you imagine how it would be to lose someone that close to you? Sadly, too many of my friends and peers can. This school year alone, my school lost two students to senseless gun violence: Paris Brown and my brother Zaire Kelly.

NAOMI WADLER: My name is Naomi, and I’m 11 years old. Me and my friend Carter led a walkout at our elementary school on the 14th. We walked out—we walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honor Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence in her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting.

I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who, at just 16, was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C. I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.

It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names, because I can, and I was asked to be. For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers. I am here to say “Never again” for those girls, too. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls, too.

People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true. My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn’t equal for everyone. And we know what is right and wrong. We also know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol. And we know that we have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote.

So I am here today to honor the words of Toni Morrison: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told, to honor the girls, the women of color who are murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation. I urge each of you to help me write the narrative for this world and understand, so that these girls and women are never forgotten. Thank you.

TREVON BOSLEY: My name is Trevon Bosley, and I’m here with the BRAVE Youth Leaders of St. Sabina. And I’m here to speak on behalf of Chicago’s youth, who are surrounded and affected by gun violence every day. I’m here to speak for those youth who fear they may be shot while going to the gas station, the movies, the bus stop, to church, or even to and from school. I’m here to speak for those Chicago youth who feel their voices have been silenced for far too long. And I’m here to speak on behalf of everyone that believes a child getting shot and killed in Chicago or any other city is still a not acceptable norm. Most importantly, I’m here to speak on behalf of my brother Terrell Bosley, who was shot and killed while leaving church, April 4th, 2006.

Just to give you guys a few stats from Chicago, since 2006, there been more than 5,850 people shot and killed in Chicago. And since 2012, there been more than 16,000 people shot. Now, let me repeat that one more time. Since 2006, there been more than 5,850 people shot and killed in Chicago. And since 2012, there have been more than 16,000 people shot in Chicago. These stats are not just numbers in a speech. These are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. On a societal proportion, these are lawyers, doctors, artists, musicians. And more than anything else, these are lives cut short due to senseless gun violence.

I must add, though, Chicago’s violence epidemic didn’t start overnight. It was caused by many problems that we are still not dealing with to this day. When you have a city that feels it’s more important to help pay for a college and sports complex, rather than fund schools and impoverished communities, you have gun violence. When you have a city—when you have a city that feels we need more Divvy bikes in downtown Chicago for tourists, rather than more funding for workforce programs that get guys off the streets real jobs, you have gun violence. When you have an Illinois state governor, Bruce Rauner, who feels that funding anti-violence programs is, I quote, “non-essential spending,” you have gun violence. When you have elected officials who feel that getting a few extra dollars from the NRA is more important than their actual constituents, you have gun violence. And when you have a president that would rather constantly talk about and belittle Chicago’s violence, rather than send funds or resources, you have gun violence.

It’s time to care about all communities equally. It’s time to stop judging some communities as worthy and some communities as unworthy. It’s time to stop judging youth that look like me or my brother, that come from impoverished communities, any different than anyone else. It’s time for America to notice that everyday shootings are everyday problems.

MATTHEW SOTO: My name is Matthew Soto. And at the age of 15, I sat in my high school Spanish class, while my sister Victoria Soto was being slaughtered in her first grade classroom in Newtown, Connecticut. On December 14th, Vicki went into school to make gingerbread houses with her first grade students before their holiday break. How many of you can remember doing that, the anticipation of having to wait all week, to have to be on your best behavior? But that was cut short. They didn’t get to make gingerbread houses, because gunfire rang out in the hallway.

Too many times has gunfire been ringing out in the hallways of schools across this country—too many schools, too many churches, too many movie theaters, too many neighborhoods, too many homes. Enough is enough. We do not have to wait for others to make us safe. We need to do it ourselves.

America, I am pleading with you to realize this is not OK. We do not have to live like this. Many of the students that were in fourth grade when my sister was murdered are now freshmen in high school. Five years ago, this happened. Five years ago, and no change has come. Today, over 400 students, teachers and parents of Newtown families are here marching with us today.

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