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‘One life is worth all the guns in America’: Students demand end to violence at March for Our Lives

March 26, 2018

by Democracy Now!

These young people – no adults were allowed – spoke to a crowd of 800,000 on the mall in Washington, D.C., on March 24 at the main March for Our Lives. The little one in front beside Emma Gonzalez is powerful speaker Naomi Wadler, only 11 years old. Sister marches were held in 800 cities around the world, young people united and determined to defeat the tyranny of the gun. – Photo: NBC News

Amy Goodman: In a historic day of action, more than 800 protests on Saturday urged lawmakers to pass gun control. In Washington, D.C., alone, organizers say up to 800,000 people took part in the March for Our Lives, which was organized by students who survived the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In New York, another 150,000 people took to the streets; 85,000 rallied in Chicago; 55,000 marched in Los Angeles. Tens of thousands also rallied in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. And 20,000 people gathered in Parkland, Florida.

Demands from the students include a ban on semiautomatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds; a ban on accessories that simulate automatic weapons; the establishment of a database of gun sales and universal background checks; the closing of gun show and secondhand sales loopholes; allowing the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, to make recommendations for gun reform; and raise the firearm purchase age to 21; and to change privacy laws to let mental healthcare providers communicate with law enforcement.

Today we air voices from Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Speakers at the march included survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, as well as young people from around the country who have been impacted by gun violence. …

Mya Middleton, 16 – Photo: WPLG

Mya Middleton: I’m Mya Middleton, and I’m 16 years old. I’m here because I have been personally affected by the lack of gun control, and I believe guns have taken over the minds of individuals who want an easy way out of their dilemma. Chicago goes through this every day, and you don’t realize how much of a toll it is taking on our city, until you see it in our communities, you see it on someone you know, you see it on someone like me.

Freshman year in high school, I wanted to get some things from the store for my mom, because she was sick. I remember pulling on all these clothes and going out in 10-or-so-degree weather. It was so cold. Get to the store, grabbing all this stuff, thinking, “Maybe she needs this, maybe she needs that,” and finally getting into line.

This guy in front of me all of a sudden gets upset because he didn’t have enough money to pay for the things that he wanted to buy. He gets out of line and starts trashing the store, throwing everything over the floor, pushing carts, just making a fool out of himself.

So, finally, when I check out, I walk to the door, and I’m ready to go, when I hear a scream and a bang. I turn around and see he’s grabbing all this stuff, pushing it into every crevice of his body, trying to grab as much as he can—when he finally turns to me.

He comes towards me, and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t think. All I remember is seeing dark jeans coming towards me. He pulls out this silver pistol and points it in my face, and said these words, that to this day haunt me and give me nightmares. He said, “If you said anything, I will find you.” And yet I’m still saying something today.

Guns have long scared our children, corrupted our adults and publicly silenced our government. Guns have become the voice of America, and the government is becoming more negligent by this predicament by the day. Join me in sharing my pain and my anger. Help us by screaming to the government that we are tired of crying for help to a group of people that have turned their backs on us, despite their reassurance of making our country safer.

Amy Goodman: Sixteen-year-old Mya Middleton from Chicago, speaking at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. …

Yolanda Renee King, 9 – Photo: Essence

Yolanda Renee King: My name is Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King. My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period.

Will you please repeat these words after me? Spread the word!

Crowd: Spread the word!

Yolanda Renee King: Have you heard?

Crowd: Have you heard?

Yolanda Renee King: All across the nation!

Crowd: All across the nation!

Yolanda Renee King: We!

Crowd: We!

Yolanda Renee King: Are going to be!

Crowd: Are going to be!

Yolanda Renee King: A great generation!

Crowd: A great generation!

Edna Chavez, 17 – Photo: HipLatina

Edna Lizbeth Chávez: Hola, buenas tardes. My name is Edna Lizbeth Chávez, and I am from South Los Angeles, California, el sur de Los Ángeles. I am a 17-year-old senior at Manual Arts High School. I am a youth leader. I am a survivor. I have lived in South L.A. my entire life and have lost many loved ones to gun violence. This is normal, normal to the point that I learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read.

My brother, he was in high school when he passed away. It was a day like any other day, sunset going down on South Central. You hear pops, thinking they’re fireworks. They weren’t pops. You see the melanin on your brother’s skin turn gray. Ricardo was his name. Can y’all say it with me?

Crowd: Ricardo!

Edna Lizbeth Chávez: I lost more than my brother that day. I lost my hero. I also lost my mother, my sister and myself to that trauma and that anxiety. If the bullet did not kill me, that anxiety and that trauma will. I carry that trauma everywhere I go. I carry it with me in schools, in class, walking home and visiting loved ones.

And I am not alone in this experience. For decades, my community of South Los Angeles has become accustomed to this violence. It is normal to see candles. It is normal to see posters. It is normal to see balloons. It is normal to see flowers honoring the lives of Black and Brown youth that have lost their lives to a bullet.

How can we cope with it, when our school district has its own police department? Instead of making Black and Brown students feel safe, they continue to profile and criminalize us. Instead, we should have a department specializing in restorative justice.

Policymakers, listen up. Arming teachers will not work! More security in our schools does not work! Zero-tolerance policies do not work! They make us feel like criminals. We should feel empowered and supported in our schools. Instead of funding these policies, fund mentorship programs, mental health resources, paid internship and job opportunities.

Zion Kelly, 17 – Photo: Upworthy

Zion Kelly: My name is Zion Kelly, and I’m a senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy here in Washington, D.C. I’m here to represent the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of students who live every day in constant paranoia and fear on their way to and from school.

At this moment, please raise your hand if you have been affected by gun violence, to honor the ones you have lost. Today, I raise my hand in honor of my twin brother, Zaire Kelly. Zaire was shot on Sept. 20, 2017, on his way home from a competitive college counseling after-school program called College Bound.

Zaire had the personality that would light up the room. He was energetic and full of dreams and aspirations. He was our team captain on the track team. He was running for student government president, and he was a youth councilmember.

He aspired to be a forensic scientist and attend Florida A&M University for undergrad. Zaire was also the best dresser I knew, with the most style. He was a person, a leader, an inspirer, not just another statistic.

The racial disparity of gun violence victims, a topic normally taboo, was mentioned a number of times at the DC March for Our Lives. – Photo: Bradley E. Williams

I was in contact with Zaire while he was walking home, texting him and calling him all through the night. About 20 to 30 minutes went by, and I became worried, because the walk alone doesn’t even take 30 minutes. I left my room to ask my mom where he was, until I saw flashing blue and red lights outside my window. I told my parents that there were police cars and an ambulance on our street. We rushed outside, discovering that it was Zaire.

That night, on Sept. 20, a robber with a gun was lurking on my streets for hours. On my walk home, he attempted to rob me, but I ran. Though he had an ankle monitor on and he was supposed to be monitored by the police, he was still able to obtain a gun illegally and lurk in my streets and take my brother’s life. He shot my brother in the head. Once we arrived to the hospital, he was pronounced dead.

From the time we were born, we shared everything, including issues. I spent time with him every day, because we went to the same school, shared the same friends, and we even shared the same room. Can you imagine how it would be to lose someone that close to you? Sadly, too many of my friends and peers can. This school year alone, my school lost two students to senseless gun violence: Paris Brown and my brother Zaire Kelly.

Naomi Wadler: My name is Naomi, and I’m 11 years old. Me and my friend Carter led a walkout at our elementary school on the 14th. We walked out – we walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honor Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence in her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting.

I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who, at just 16, was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C. I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.

Naomi Wadler, 11 – Photo: Mother Jones

It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names, because I can, and I was asked to be. For far too long, these names, these Black girls and women, have been just numbers. I am here to say “Never again” for those girls, too. I am here to say that everyone should value those girls, too.

People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own. People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true. My friends and I might still be 11, and we might still be in elementary school, but we know.

We know life isn’t equal for everyone. And we know what is right and wrong. We also know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol. And we know that we have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote.

So I am here today to honor the words of Toni Morrison: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told, to honor the girls, the women of color who are murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation. I urge each of you to help me write the narrative for this world and understand, so that these girls and women are never forgotten. Thank you.

Trevon “Tre” Bosley, 19 – Photo: Washington Examiner

Trevon Bosley: My name is Trevon Bosley, and I’m here with the BRAVEYouth Leaders of St. Sabina. And I’m here to speak on behalf of Chicago’s youth, who are surrounded and affected by gun violence every day. I’m here to speak for those youth who fear they may be shot while going to the gas station, the movies, the bus stop, to church, or even to and from school.

I’m here to speak for those Chicago youth who feel their voices have been silenced for far too long. And I’m here to speak on behalf of everyone that believes a child getting shot and killed in Chicago or any other city is still a not acceptable norm. Most importantly, I’m here to speak on behalf of my brother, Terrell Bosley, who was shot and killed while leaving church, April 4, 2006.

Just to give you guys a few stats from Chicago, since 2006, there’ve been more than 5,850 people shot and killed in Chicago. And since 2012, there’ve been more than 16,000 people shot. Now, let me repeat that one more time. Since 2006, there’ve been more than 5,850 people shot and killed in Chicago. And since 2012, there have been more than 16,000 people shot in Chicago.

These stats are not just numbers in a speech. These are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. On a societal proportion, these are lawyers, doctors, artists, musicians. And more than anything else, these are lives cut short due to senseless gun violence.

“March for Our Lives was so much fun,” said one youngster at the end of the day. It felt good to make a difference.” – Photo: KAM

I must add, though, Chicago’s violence epidemic didn’t start overnight. It was caused by many problems that we are still not dealing with to this day. When you have a city that feels it’s more important to help pay for a college and sports complex rather than fund schools and impoverished communities, you have gun violence.

When you have a city – when you have a city that feels we need more Divvy bikes in downtown Chicago for tourists rather than more funding for workforce programs that get guys off the streets real jobs, you have gun violence. When you have an Illinois state governor, Bruce Rauner, who feels that funding anti-violence programs is, I quote, “non-essential spending,” you have gun violence.

When you have elected officials who feel that getting a few extra dollars from the NRA is more important than their actual constituents, you have gun violence. And when you have a president that would rather constantly talk about and belittle Chicago’s violence rather than send funds or resources, you have gun violence.

It’s time to care about all communities equally. It’s time to stop judging some communities as worthy and some communities as unworthy. It’s time to stop judging youth that look like or my brother, that come from impoverished communities, any different than anyone else. It’s time for America to notice that everyday shootings are everyday problems.

Democracy Now! is broadcast weekdays on over 1,450 radio and TV stations, the largest public media collaboration in the country, and at www.democracynow.org, where archived shows, transcripts, podcasts and more can also be found. This segment, broadcast Monday, March 26, 2018, has been excerpted to highlight the Black and Brown speakers from Democracy Now’s transcript, which can be viewed in full below.

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