Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Voices From The 'March For Our Lives' Rally In Washington


Across the country and around the world, people took to the streets yesterday to call for an end to gun violence in America. They were of all ages and backgrounds. But in Washington, D.C., where the biggest demonstration took place, young people had the stage. In speech after speech, students made emotional appeals for action. Among them were the teenagers from Parkland, Fla., whose activism sparked this movement. I went out to the National Mall, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered. Helicopters hovered overhead as I talked to some of the demonstrators.

VIOLET AKPONA: Personally, at my school about two weeks ago, we received a gun threat shooting. So at that school that day, the hallways were empty. And I just felt that in my heart because the possibility of it happening in my community - my friends - just shook me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Seventeen-year-old Violet Akpona is from Germantown, Md. But it wasn't just the shootings in schools that were on her mind.

AKPONA: People need to acknowledge not only school shootings but shootings in Chicago and other cities.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: As a person of color, do you think that we have been focusing enough on the other kinds of shootings that we see?

AKPONA: As a person of color, personally, no because the people mobilized in this movement and, you know, the white people, I think - I'm sorry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's OK. Why are you - may I ask why you're crying?

AKPONA: I'm tired of seeing people die every day from gun violence. It hurts my heart, and it feels as if there's nothing we can do. But this march today proves that that's not the case.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Eighteen-year-old Sarah Kim also had a brush with gun violence at her high school in Clarksburg, Md. She told me a boy in her class came to school armed one day.

SARAH KIM: Police officers came and took his backpack, and they realized that the gun - it wasn't even in his locker or anything. It was just in his bag. And it was loaded, too. So we were actually seconds away from, like, an actual shooting. It really can happen anywhere at any moment. And I think the only way to stop that is to pass laws that will affect all 50 states and not just a couple.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There were celebrities on hand. And we ran into actress Melissa Joan Hart, who was there with her son. She is a Republican, but she she's long spoken out in favor of stricter gun laws.

MELISSA JOAN HART: When Sandy Hook happened, we were in - a few towns over. We lived in Connecticut, and we were all really affected by that. And we thought it was important to lend our voices and try to help encourage change because I think it's time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did you think about the event and all these kids talking?

HART: I think it was incredible that it was led primarily by children. I think it's exactly what the young folks needed to hear and what our generation, the older generation, needed to hear to kind of snap out of the haze that keeps - we keep falling into in between these mass shootings.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ellie D'Alessandro is 19, and her sign said, I should fear finals more than guns. Her mom is a public school teacher.

Why do you think it's your generation that is taking this head on?

ELLIE D'ALESSANDRO: You know, I think a lot of it had to do with the Parkland students. But I think a lot of people have been unhappy about gun violence for a very long time. I think the first memory I have of coming into - just into that world was, I think, The Virginia Tech shooting. I remember I was really, really young. But that's something you don't forget. My mom texted me, telling me, don't turn on the TV. Wait until I get home. Like, you know something bad has happened when your mother texts you that. So I don't know. She texted us one day - just all three of my brothers and I - she said just, I'm just letting you know that I love you. And it was because her school had a bomb threat. And so you really never know. You really don't know if your school is going to be next because it's so plausible that you might be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Voices from the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. And we'll have more coverage of yesterday's demonstrations throughout our program this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.