Proponents of stricter gun control laws — including UNC students — went to over 800 marches worldwide Saturday supporting students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed on Valentine's Day.
In North Carolina, thousands of protesters showed up in Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham. UNC senior Delaney O'Connell, a studio art major and education minor, attended the march in Raleigh. She said she went because she plans on working in schools in the near future.
"The growing fear students are faced with following each school shooting is more than concerning to me," she said.
O'Connell attended the march with her mother, who she said is very politically active, especially when it comes to gun control. She said one of the speakers noted her generation is defined by school shootings. O'Connell said the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 happened right before she started kindergarten.
"Now in my last year of schooling, the nation is responding to the student activism that followed Parkland," she said.
Meghana Srikrishna and Courtney Casey attended the march in Washington. Srikrishna and Casey, both UNC juniors, are in the city for the spring semester as part of UNC's Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs.
Casey is an intern at the American Federation of Teachers, a union of education professionals. The union hosted its members and student-led groups in its Washington office Saturday morning making signs and handing out lunches and water bottles. Around noon they attended the march on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"The march itself was incredible," Casey said. "I have never felt a part of something so big."
Casey said she thought the student organizers' determination and mobilization were incredible. She said she talked to a student organizer named Sophie from New York City who coordinated 800 students from multiple high schools to walk out on March 14 and got many students to go to Washington with her.
"I feel so lucky to have watched Sophie and hundreds of thousands of other students like her gather together to make change," Casey said.
Srikrishna, a former Daily Tar Heel city assistant editor, attended the march with her friends. She said she openly wept for most of the march and, like Casey, was impressed with the student speakers and organizers.
"I almost forgot they were kids until a performer like Miley Cyrus or Ariana Grande would come on stage and you would hear thousands of kids singing 'The Climb' while holding signs declaring, 'Books not bullets.'"
She said this is the first time she's seen a national movement acknowledging how gun violence disproportionately affects people of color.
"Students are leading this movement," Srikrishna said. "I’m proud to stand with them."
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