On June 11, shortly after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a coalition of groups, under the banner of March for Our Lives Gainesville, organized a rally in Gainesville at Bo Diddley Plaza that marched to Depot Park. About 500 attended to hear speakers at both locations. Organizing groups included Moms Demand Action, Florida Forward, Planned Parenthood, UF College Democrats, and Young Democratic Socialists of America. Similar events took place across the country.
A report from Vicki Machado, a Gainesville local who attended the DC rally, is on page 17. Ashoka Singh Banerjee, a high school student, gave the following speech at the Gainesville rally. For more on the Gainesville rally, see tinyurl.com/Iguana1396.
Every day for the last 10 years of my life I have woken up, gotten ready, and gone to school.
Every single day one of those days could have been the day in school that I was killed, by a random kid who had a bad day.
It makes me sick to know that my friends and I could have been the children hiding behind desks, covering ourselves in the blood of each other, just to survive another day.
This doesn’t happen in the rest of the world. This only happens in America.
Only in America do our children hide from gunmen in schools.
Only in America do we have vigils at schools.
Only in America do we teach our children to learn to play dead, to break windows and run, and sometimes how to fight back, disarm, and detain an intruder.
Our curriculum does not include social-emotional learning, or CRT, or climate change, but it does include “how to smear yourself in blood to escape being shot in the head, as camouflage.”
Only in America do we send 10-year-olds to battlegrounds instead of playgrounds.
Nowhere else has as much gun violence as the United States, the so-called “Greatest Country in the World.”
This isn’t because their people are any less insane than ours, it’s just because they saw the problem and, instead of sitting around arguing, they actually worked together to fix it.
But here in America, we’re so busy arguing about what “this is really about,” that we haven’t even tried to fix it.
What are our politicians doing?
They are sitting at their desks, not hiding underneath them.
What are our congresspeople doing? They’re counting the money they got in the past week by pledging themselves in opposition to gun regulation, as they run their campaigns with a rifle slung over their shoulder.
What are our representatives doing?
They’re weighing their options — “Well, if we sacrifice twenty or so kids a month to the National Rifle Cult they’ll bless us with a hundred thousand dollars!”
What are we doing?
Gathering again to mourn children shot to death in schools.
What are we doing?
We’re believing the lie that schools can be made safer, as if hundreds of people aren’t being shot to death every day in the streets.
What are we doing here, again?
If we had the will, we could make it stop.
It will take all of us.
Let’s march, let’s mourn, but above all, we need to vote against the gun lobby and the politicians who arm those who would rob us of our children, this world’s future.
After all, this is America, and in America we are forced to negotiate for our lives at the ballot box.
My name is Ashoka Singh Banerjee, and I am 15 years old.
Five years ago, I stood here on this same stage, giving a speech to mourn the lives lost in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shooting.
That day I swore that it would be the first and last time I would do this.
It has been five years, yet this keeps happening.
And I have had enough, haven’t you?
This problem is of your making, with the systems you’ve put in place. Show some courage so that we kids don’t fight this fight for you, so that we kids don’t have to die for your failures.
If you won’t fix it, our generation will fix it — our way.