by Vickie Machado
Saturday, June 11, under overcast DC skies, people converged with signs and banners before a stage set up on the lawn north of the Washington Monument. Just blocks away from key congressional decision makers, the audience’s message was clear: enough is enough, we want an end to gun violence. Tired of mass shootings, the crowd was there to march for their lives.
Gun violence has no limits, impacting everywhere from the South Side of Chicago to the school shootings of Uvalde, Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine. More recently, it has hurt communities like Laguna Woods and Buffalo. Similarly, it has brought even the largest of cities like Las Vegas and Orlando to their knees in grief. The crowd in DC was well aware of the events and the common threads that united them.
Many speakers brought to light the racial inequities surrounding gun violence as it has been a long time problem that has yet to be addressed in many black and brown communities. Community leaders, local politicians, and survivors shared their stories of losing multiple family members to drive-by shootings while others recounted incidents when they were hunted down. Additional speakers called out the white supremacist motivations of several mass shooting gunmen and the need to address such racism through legislation centered on combating hatred. The speakers that followed proposed everything from school walk outs to DC statehood.
Seventy-eight minutes into the rally, the reality of the situation came to the forefront. As the audience quieted for a moment of silence, the stillness was interrupted by a man shouting. Seconds later the crowd surged, setting off a domino effect as people in the crowd began running away from the commotion. A moment later the speaker on stage clearly spoke: “DO NOT RUN.” It slowed those who had panicked. While many toward the back left, most of the crowd returned to attention. The disturbance, which was later reported on by the Washington Post (tinyurl.com/Iguana1398), incited fear in those already fearful and reinforced that the feeling of safety and security is hard to come by in a country where this year alone has seen more than 250 mass shootings (washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/06/02/mass-shootings-in-2022/).
While March for Our Lives has the energy, there are still questions about how to direct that momentum toward impactful and long lasting change that will protect our communities. One thing is clear: America needs change and we need it now.