Tens of thousands of students, friends, and family filled Cal Anderson and then proceeded to fill two miles of Pine from the park to downtown Saturday as the March for Our Lives protest put faces to the growing call for more to be done to address gun violence.
“We are infuriated,” student activist Asher said from the stage as the crowd listened to speeches and waited for the march to the Seattle Center to begin.
Activists from the student group Youth 4 Peace took the stage with long-stem roses, tossing them down to the ground while naming casualties of gun violence. “We are not afraid,” said Elijiah, 18 years old, from South Seattle. “Before you write any bills, before you make any decisions on guns, think about your children,” he said. “Think about your grandchildren and think about their children because whatever you write now will effect generations to come.”
Seattle area students rallied on Capitol Hill Saturday to march for gun law reform, drawing thousands of sign wielding supporters. Community members and students filled the park’s Bobby Morris sports field by 10:30 AM with temperatures in the mid forties but under fortunately dry skies to hear speeches from student activists, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Voter registration efforts were underway throughout the crowd and a group of students symbolically registered to vote together on the stage, cheered on by thousands.
“I thank the youth because you are the movement,” Sen. Maria Cantwell said to the waiting crowd. “You are part of 800 marches across the United States that are going to say, ‘We will not tolerate no action when action is desperately needed to protect the lives of our youth.’”
Cantwell said she was looking ahead to what comes next in November’s mid-term elections.
“We are going to say to those all across this nation, we are going to continue to lead,” she sad, “and if you don’t change the laws, we are going to change the people who make the laws.”
“Today, let this be the start… the start of an action that will end in November.”
Ferguson used his time on the rally stage to take state Republics to task for not doing more to address calls for better gun control. “We think of ourselves a a very progressive state, right? Now, across our country there are states that have banned — states have banned the sale of assault weapons. Washington State is not one of them,” Ferguson said. “I have a question: Does that make any sense to you?”
“It’s unacceptable that our legislators in our state won’t listen, but I think they will now,” he said.
Organizer Katalia Alexander believes that the government spending on terrorism prevention is the same type of investment we should make around gun reform. “If someone is determined to pull off an act of terrorism, they will succeed but it doesn’t mean we don’t spend billions of dollars a year to try and prevent it, and it’s the same with gun violence.”
“For the black and brown kids who face this every day but don’t receive national coverage, today when we march, we won’t leave anyone behind,” said march co-organizer Rhiannon Rasaretnam.
Akshaya Ajith, 12 years old, who joined the student walk out last week at her junior high in Sammamish, was at the front of the crowd with her father and her sign that read “Arms are for hugging.” Ajith says to anyone thinking about committing an act of violence, and who might be in pain “no matter what there is always someone who cares and someone who can help you. No matter what, if you need help there will be someone who will love you and support you,” she said.
— Alex Garland (@AGarlandPhoto) March 24, 2018
This was Cal Anderson earlier. pic.twitter.com/K6gftcaGsN
— K A T (@emeraldcitylove) March 24, 2018
— March For Our Lives – Seattle (@MFOLseattle) March 24, 2018
— Mike O'Brien (@CMMikeOBrien) March 24, 2018
— Megan Knight (@MKlowcall) March 24, 2018
— K.I. Hubbard (@kinouehubbard) March 24, 2018
— Eivind Morris Bakke (@Duffmorris) March 24, 2018
— Emerald City Heroes (@ECHO_Seattle) March 24, 2018
— Chopper 7 (@kiro7chopper) March 24, 2018
UPDATE: All lanes on Pine St are now closed from Broadway to 4th Ave for the March for Our Lives rally. Please use alternate routes. pic.twitter.com/13z7rjnuty
— SDOT Traffic (@SDOTtraffic) March 24, 2018
— jseattle (@jseattle) March 24, 2018
Organizers said more than 800 March for Our Lives events were held across the country and around the world Saturday, Early estimates for marchers in Washington D.C. put the crowd at around 800,000. There was no official count for the Seattle march as of Saturday afternoon but with the march spreading out across at least two miles, it’s safe to say there were “tens of thousands” — perhaps anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 people.
Saturday’s marches come amid a surge in calls for gun control following the February mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. Much of the push has come from students. Earlier this month, students at high schools across Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Seattle walked out of class to mark the one-month anniversary of the Florida shooting. March for Our Lives organizers say their effort is about more than stopping the next mass shooting. “While school shootings make headlines, 46 kids are shot due to gun violence every single day in America, the majority of these, in marginalized communities,” organizers said.
Organizer and Maple Valley student Rasaretnam told CHS she was inspired by the student activism at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the wake of the Valentine’s Day deadly mass shooting at the school. “I feel like youth around the nation seeing that students can take the lead on this inspires them to increase their own role in their own community,” Rasaretnam said. “I want the focus to be on the face a lot of these marches are being led by the students.”
The Tahoma High School student joined Ballard High’sEmilia Allard to organize the coalition effort that they say also includes students from public and private schools in Gig Harbor, Marysville, South Seattle, and other local communities.
In addition to showing solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, March 24th marchers called on “state and national elected officials is to work towards firmer gun control measures that include banning assault rifles, banning bump stocks nationally, raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, ensuring school safety without use of firearms, and calling on members of Congress and corporations to stop accepting support from or providing support for the NRA.” Everytown, a nonprofit dedicated to gun control and addressing gun violence led by Michael Bloomberg, also helped to organize the events.
The Seattle group is also continuing to raise money to pay for organizing the march and for a Stoneman Douglas Victims Fund. You can give here.
Seattle school officials have been supportive of the walkouts and march as the Seattle Public School Board issued a resolution to support gun control efforts.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal joined the March for Our Lives Seattle activists last week to address questions from online and a live audience in a town hall at Garfield High School’s Quincy Jones Auditorium. Rep. Jayapal, whose son graduated from Garfield in 2016, was scheduled to meet with Parkland students on Friday prior to the Saturday marches across the country.
At Seattle Center, marchers found “opportunities for voter registration on site for new youth voters and others not previously registered” and a program scheduled to include Governor Jay Inslee and musician Brandi Carlile. Inslee’s appearance comes as the West Coast governor has become increasingly active in his criticism of the Trump administration. He also appeared at a town hall on gun violence earlier this month at Seattle U hosted and broadcast by KIRO 7.
The town halls featuring Inslee and Jayapal followed another town hall gathering on gun violence hosted in March by Mayor Jenny Durkan. While efforts at banning assault weapons at the state level remain hamstrung, Durkan made a push on new efforts at gun control on a more local level last week as she put forward a proposal for a new law requiring Seattle owners to be responsible for safely securing their firearms.
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