On Saturday, hundreds gathered at Halifax Mall in Raleigh, joining nationwide March For Our Lives protests against gun violence and mass shootings.
The Raleigh protest was one of more than 450 sister marches planned across the country, prompted by the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Current and retired teachers, parents, students and even young children attended the protest.
Carroll Magnet Middle School teacher Becca Kimble held a sign that read “If I die in a mass shooting, lay my body on the steps of Congress.”
She said she supports gun legislation and wants weapons to be kept out of the hands of young people and people with mental illnesses.
“Don't say something sweet about me,” Kimble said in reference to her sign. “Tell them I was mad as hell.”
Kimble attended the protest with her 3-year-old twin sons. She said that shooting drills are traumatic and that she worries about her children’s safety in school.
“Why couldn’t it happen to them?” she said. “There’s nothing stopping it.”
Eighteen-year-old Laura McDow planned the event. McDow, who graduated from Carolina Friends School the day after the protest, said she missed graduation events to organize the protest.
“I didn’t just figuratively survive high school, I literally made it through alive – and that’s something many Americans can’t say,” McDow said in a speech given at the event.
McDow said she has been involved in March For Our Lives all throughout high school since attending the organization’s first protest in Washington, D.C. when she was 14 years old.
March For Our Lives, a student-led movement, began in response to the shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Millions of people gathered to protest in Washington and across the country.
McDow and a team of student organizers spoke at the protest, sharing their experience with the movement and fear of gun violence. McDow, the first speaker at the protest, said she voted for the first time in the May 17 primary election. She said that now that her generation, which she referred to as “the lockdown generation," can vote, legislators will have to listen to them.
Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, former president of the North Carolina Association of Educators Mark Jewell, Raleigh-Apex NAACP president Gerald Givens Jr. and N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, also spoke at the event.
Allam is expecting her first child and said she and her husband worry about possible gun violence her child could face at school, a grocery store or a mosque.
Patricia Galloway, a 74-year-old retired Wake County teacher, said that politicians have been “indifferent” to gun violence in schools which allows shootings to continue.
“I believe there's a time and a place for guns,” Galloway said. “But these assault weapons, it's just senseless and ludicrous that they should even be available in the stores."
She said this is her first March For Our Lives protest and that she has also contacted senators asking what benefit assault rifle availability brings to the public.
Galloway added that the country has to come together in a bipartisan way in order to prevent more violence.
“Is it going to take one of your family members to be decimated in order for you to act?” Galloway asked, directing her question to legislators.
N.C. State sophomore Emma Rossilli and Parsons School of Design sophomore Andria Shafer said that legislators should be scared for their kids. Rossilli and Shafer said they went to the Washington March For Our Lives rally in 2018 while they were in high school at Durham Academy.
Twenty-year-old Alamance Community College student Kyle Barber recounted feeling “powerless” in high school because he was too young to vote and his teacher at Cresset Christian Academy blocked his attempt to hold a school walkout in 2018 in support of March For Our Lives.
Barber said that since then, he has become very involved in activism and organizing by attending protests and phone banking during the 2020 election.
“When we organize like this, I think a better future is possible,” Barber said.
March For Our Lives Co-Founder David Hogg repeatedly said on Twitter that “this time is different” because more people across the political spectrum are engaging in the conversation about gun legislation.
After the protest, McDow attributed this change to the fact that people are just now starting to understand the four-year-old March For Our Lives movement.
“I think people are really starting to realize that this movement isn't that people were trying to take people's guns away,” McDow said. “I think people are just starting to see, truly, that this movement is about making sure that guns don't fall into the wrong hands. I believe that people are for the safety of Americans.”
On Sunday, a group of ten Democratic and ten Republican United States senators announced a breakthrough agreement on gun violence — the first of its kind in 30 years, according to Hogg. The inclusion of 10 Republican senators means the proposal has enough support to overcome the Senate filibuster when the proposal becomes a bill and goes to a vote.
The proposal includes funding for school safety resources, an enhanced review process for buyers under the age of 21, a red flag provision and investment in mental health and suicide prevention programs.
In her speech, McDow stressed the importance of voting. She said that any legislator who does not take action should not have a seat.
“I swear it ends with us," she said. "You are either with us trying to save lives or you're out of a job. See you in November.”
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