South Bend March for Our Lives

This weekend, more than a million people worldwide participated in Marches for Our Lives, which focused on the widespread issue of gun violence and how specifically laws and policies can be put in place to reduce harm. Most marches were organized by high school and middle school students, and those voices took center stage. These kids can’t vote, so they were begging the rest of the country to hear their fears and concerns.

 

I had the opportunity to attend the South Bend rally, and heard from so many high school and middle school students about their very real fears and concerns. Mayor Pete kicked off the event, speaking about his experience in the military and his conviction that military style weapons have no place here. He spoke of the part of his job he despises, which is hearing the news about deaths, especially those due to gun violence, in his city.  He spoke of his love for his fiance, who works as a teacher, making concerns about gun violence in schools close to his heart.

The vast majority of the speakers were high school students from across South Bend, but two middle schoolers went up to speak together and brought me to tears.  They spoke of the two school lockdowns they have had over the past several weeks, and the fear they felt for their friends and siblings. They spoke of the fact that many students did not come to school after a threat was made for a particular day. The threat of gun violence is so real that it actively prevents students from attend school.  They also connected school violence to gun violence anywhere in the community, and specifically they ways in which young people of color are more at risk.

 

Three candidates running for the House of Representatives in this 2nd district also made brief statements, pledging not to take “one damn dime” from the NRA.  They made their point, and then ceded the stage back to the kids. This was not the time for campaigning.

 

But it was the time to talk about voting. These kids, some of whom are a mere two months too young to vote in the 2018 midterms, talked about how to register to vote, when the primaries were, and when the election was. They have a better grasp of civic duty and how government functions than I did when I was their age.

 

The final speaker was the head of the local chapter of Moms Demand action, who explained that their meeting in January had 10 attendees. After the Parkland shooting, over a hundred people attended. If that reflects anything of the natural trend, there is hope for laws and policies to change, as long as we keep listening to these kids.

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Images 1, 2 (from author), 3 (from author)