ASL students advocate for gun control at March For Our Lives in London

People at the March For our Lives in London on March 24 hold up signs and chant against the gun control laws in the U.S. Some popular slogans were “We Call BS,” “Books not Bullets,” and “Am I next?” (Photo by Natalie Burke)

London, like many other cities around the world, held a March For Our Lives protest on March 24 which several ASL students in various grades attended. The main march held in Washington, DC was led by the student survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. On February 14, a 19 year old former student of the school armed with an AR-15 killed 17 students and faculty members. In response, the March for Our Lives movement was created and rallies were held around the world. Hundreds of students, teachers, Americans and Brits marched in front of the US Embassy on March 24 protesting the NRA (National Rifle Association) and promoting gun reform.

The march started at noon, and hundreds of people gathered with colourful posters and signs. The signs read “We Call BS” a popular quote from the Parkland shooting survivor’s speech, Emma Gonzalez. Or “Books not Bullets,” “Am I next?” Some children even were not old enough to hold them yet; there were a range of ages from babies to senior citizens. All with the same burning rage, sorrow, and need for change.

The march began with the crowd chanting “we call BS,”  “enough is enough,” “vote them out,” and “do their jobs” along with many other cries for change for about 15 minutes. David Scollan, a college student who helped organize the march stood on a ledge and introduced himself. He gave a speech about his relationships with mass shootings as he told the crowd that he had lived 30 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

He also spoke about the goals for the future and how to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. These goals included better gun reform and legislation, increased detail in background checks, mental health tests, banning assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles along with accessories which make guns fully automatic. His speech was followed up by two other college students who helped organize the march.

Stephen Paduano, one of the speakers at the march, proceeded to say in his speech “It’s hard to say that this time will be different… But this time, it’s different because our generation is different! We will not sit back down and accept this as the way things are!”

This is true as the Parkland shooting acted as a catalyst for the movement towards gun control. This is the first time in history that students have taken control; this is the first time students are speaking out.

Protesters hold up signs and listen to a speaker during the March for our Lives in central London on March 24. Some signs talked specifically about protecting students while others protested the level of general gun control. Many ASL students attended this march (photo by Sollene Jackson).

Eighth grader Dylan Petrillo, who attended the march at the US Embassy, has a personal connection to school shootings since he attended Sandy Hook Elementary School. “People don’t tend to take school shootings as a major importance because they think it will never happen to them,” said Petrillo. “I was in a community affected by a school shooting and my relationship with shootings may be different than others.”

Petrillo explained that the call for the government to make legislation on gun reform has been going on for over a decade but people can still go to Walmart and buy a gun without a thorough background check or licence. “Going to the March For Our Lives was a continuation on my journey to support gun reform. Every year more and more people are affected by school shootings and I don’t know how many children it’s going to take before the government starts to take action.”

Petrillo appreciated that so many people turned up to the march despite the fact that many people haven’t had a personal connection to the issue. “The fact that Americans and British people could stand together across an ocean and support the cause that millions of Americans are fighting for was really inspiring. It’s inspiring that a community unaffected by shootings is able to support us.”

In fact, since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, there have been nearly 300 school shootings. To mark how many people have died, the organizers of the march then had a moment of silence for the fallen students, and had everyone lie on the ground to show how many students have fallen. And so, there lay hundreds of bodies with the only noise breaking the silence was the sound of subtle sniffles.

“Being at the March represented how so many people can come together to be the change they want to see. It inspired me to continue to fight for the things I believe in and to stay strong in the face of challenge, ”said eighth grader Natalie Burke.

About Michelle Raiole ('22)

Staff Writer 2017-18

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