Youth lead the way at Philly March for Our Lives
Thousands gathered for March for Our Lives Philadelphia on Saturday, listening to and cheering on student organizers and other speakers calling for gun reform in the wake of the Parkland shootings and in the context of the ongoing, horrific effects of gun violence in the city of Philadelphia.
At the March for Our Lives Philadelphia rally on Saturday, the loudest cheers were called forth by some of the youngest speakers.
The march in Philadelphia , which began in Old City and ended with a rally at Lombard Circle, was part of the March for Our Lives movement started by student survivors of the shootings that took place at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.
“We are the majority. the majority of Americans do not own a gun. That’s a fact. The majority of Americans want more restrictions on guns. That’s a fact. And in a representative democracy, the majority should prevail. So why are we being ignored? Why are we not being heard? We’re not doing enough. We need to get out, and we need to make our voices heard. We need to vote,” said Ethan Block, a sophomore at Hopewell Valley Central High School in New Jersey and one of the student march organizers.
“We must have gun reform in order to keep all people safe, and for everyone who has come out today to march with us, do not let this movement die,” Block said to conclude a passionate speech urging the thousands present to stay engaged and use their votes to create change.
Camryn Cambodia, a Central High School student and member of the Philadelphia Student Union, reminded the audience that in order to have true school safety, the realities of students of color and their demands for school safety must be included in that vision. Cambodia explained that for her and many of her peers, school safety does not look like arming teachers or school police officers.
“I don’t feel safe knowing that my peers are constantly being thrust into the school to prison pipeline,” Cambodia said, calling for more supportive and inclusive school safety structures, including an online complaint system she called for at her school so that students could report if school officers acted in an inappropriate manner.
The need to understand gun violence as it has been affecting people in the city of Philadelphia for years was emphasized by many of the day's speakers.
“For many of us, especially those of us living in Philadelphia, gun violence is and has been our reality for way too long,” said Grace Chong, a student activist and one of the organizers of the march.
“There are kids and teenagers who live in fear everyday. When we talk about gun violence, we’re not just talking about the big mass shootings. We’re talking about the hidden violence as well. We’re talking about every single person who has been suffering silently, in the shadows, and is dealing with fear, anger, and trauma because of how they were directly or indirectly affected by gun violence. To those people, you are not forgotten,” Chong said.
Ronald Turner, one of the marchers at the rally, said that he is one of those people whose life has been affected by gun violence in many ways.
“Throughout my life there has been a ton of gun violence in my family, along with a lot of my friends going to jail or dying because of guns. I’m there to show support and I want to get these things regulated. I don’t want this to be a normal thing. People shouldn’t be able to go through loopholes to get a weapon that could do something so sinister,” Turner said.
Even Mayor Kenney blended in with the rest of crowd of all ages and generations who watched from the ground as the city's youth activists took front and center, calling for gun reform and action from congressional representatives who time and have failed to enact protective measures.
“The most important part is that young people are stepping up to be leaders,” Kenney said as he stopped for a moment on his way through the crowd. “I’m 59-years-old, my time ahead of me is shorter than my time behind me, and these young people will step up and lead. And I feel very confident as I move towards my retirement, that they’ll be in charge, because they’re more conscious, they’re more woke, and they are decent people towards each other. Unlike what we have now.”
.@PhillyMayor Jim Kenney took a moment to talk to @ALDIANews as he passed through the crowd at #MarchForOurLives in #Philly to talk about the importance of the movement and the leadership of young people. #MarchForOurLivesPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/69vlDviJFX
— AL DÍA News (@ALDIANews) March 24, 2018
Senator Bob Casey also spoke, calling for votes on legislation to reform background checks, limit high-capacity magazines, and ban military style assault weapons, among other gun reform proposals.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but you know what? Because of your generation, because of your work, because of your determination, we’re going to win this fight,” said Casey.
— AL DÍA News (@ALDIANews) March 24, 2018
Mark Timpone, father of a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who was almost killed at the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14, was also among the speakers at the event. He explained that following the shooting he turned in his own AR-15 — the very same assault weapon that the shooter used to take 17 lives at his son’s high school. Timpone described the loophole he used to purchase it and called for stricter regulation for gun sales.
“It took this horrible massacre to change my views and to change the way I think now,” Timpone said, calling for change to prevent tragedy from happening again.
To continue the conversation on gun violence, the Philadelphia Youth Commission (PYC) and the Mayor's Millenial Advisory Committee (MAC) are co-hosting a forum on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at South Philadelphia High School in which city youth can discuss how to address the everyday violence that occurs in Philadelphia, and how that can be changed. Youth or those interested in attending can find more information about the event here.