On March 24th, thousands of people across the country and around the world took to the streets and protested American gun laws. With the United States being one of the most powerful countries in the world but also one of the leading countries with the most instances of mass shootings proves to be a problem. The March of Our Lives drew people together over the common concern of the what has become normalized gun shootings. When I say normalized, I do not mean accepted but rather they are so often that they have become less and less of a surprise each time they occur. We say “whelp, another one.”
I attended the March for Our Lives event in Albany, New York. Having never attended a protest prior to this I did not fully know what to expect. I knew that this was a political moment for our country and for its people; regardless of political affiliation, people spoke out against this normalized problem and advocated for the safety of our country’s children, our lives, and to promote change. Political protests have be a staple in our country’s history but have become increasingly more popular in the last few years. The second Women’s March happened just a couple of months ago, there are events being created for science, and the Black Lives Matter movement are all still prevalent in our country.
The Albany event was organized by high school students which, alone, is a statement; across the country, high schoolers took the initiative to organize this event because they were no longer going to put up with losing classmates, taking time out of their days to do lockdown drills, and to live in a constant state of fear. With the most recent, publicized, shooting targeting high schoolers it was incredible powerful for young activists to lead the charge. Across the nation, students are calling for action and people are answering. In Albany, there was an overwhelming amount of children who were there to protest gun laws. Some posters of note had lines like, “I am almost old enough to Vote! Are you scared NRA?,” “Enough is Enough,” “Schools are for Learning, not Lockdowns,” “Policy, not Prayers,” “I thought you were pro-life,” and “I have seen smarter cabinets at IKEA.” Yes, many of the signs were direct digs at the Trump administration but many of them expressed fear and anger to what has become such a recurring headline in our everyday lives. The highs schoolers who spoke at the march were well-spoken, passionate, and demanded change. Reaching deep into their personal feelings and about the ways in which gun violence has affected their lives was moving and effective. There was another woman who spoke of her experience with domestic violence and how guns are not only causing school shootings but affecting people in all parts of life. Something interesting was that they were all female; whether this was a trend across the country, I certainly was aware of this detail. Two state-assembly members attended and spoke at the event calling for action and pledging to support tighter gun laws. Congressman Paul Tonko came to the March and showed his support for the student organizers and urged everyone in attendance to continue to work for safety for all. He praised the students for their work organizing and said it was time for people around the world to wake-up and insist on change.
In class we have discussed how non-violent resistance is more effective than using violent actions against the regime. Seeing the non-violent protest in Albany over an issue that affects people of all ages and political backgrounds proved that movements like these create dialogues and springboards for people to take further action. Erica Chenoweth’s Washington Post article articulated when and how nonviolent campaigns are effective; and it is successful when there are multiple movements happening. Though the largest march was held in D.C., the nation’s capital, the marches held in other places around the country enabled more people to be involved and informed. These political protests spark conversation and a spread of ideas. In Albany, the conversation of women’s rights and the BLM movement were evident. People wore pink hats and proudly held “Black Lives Matter” signs. This reiterated that campaigns take time to take ground but continue to create dialogues throughout many populations across the country and world; they will continue to permeate societies until the goals have been achieved.
Stephan and Chenoweth’s “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict” paper argued that non-violent resistance against the regime opens up the opportunity for bargaining and discussion. Through their research, they found that major nonviolent campaigns are successful 53% of the time whereas violent campaigns are only successful 26% of the time. This march called out the GOP leadership’s gun laws and their acceptance of funding from the NRA; calling out the government will force dialogue. It was certainly a political statement that addressed an overarching problem that is permeating our nation.
What I took away from this event was that when people become angry and frustrated, they take action. The March For Our Lives was not just about school shootings but more about addressing all of the problems associated with guns and violence in the United States; guns in the home lead to domestic violence, fear, and unsafe environments; they kill innocent six year olds, people who are enjoying a night out, and are used against the defenseless. This campaign is long overdue and many of ask why did it take this long for people to take action? I am certainly glad it took place but question why this particular shooting forced students to make a change and take action? The constant headlines of dead children and innocent civilians killed by guns should not be a part of my everyday life. Reform takes time but these are the issues in America that should be preventable before they occur. But this is democracy in full swing. When American citizens are not happy with what is happening, we take action and demand change. What has become incredibly clear after reading about the marches across the country is that this should not be a partisan issue: human lives are not up for debate and enough is enough. #NeverAgain