The figures aren't official, but DC police set aside room for 500,000 participants in today's March for Our Lives, which was actually a protest that filled the lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue as far as the eye could see in both directions. Others crowded onto side streets where we viewed colossal screens of the speakers.
Eight hundred similar events occurred on every continent except for Antarctica, which did participate in the Women's March 2017. In DC, pink hats dotted overhead views of the participants. There were no incidents of violence or other police intervention except for illness. The event lasted for more than three hours.
The theme, of course, was advocacy for outlawing assault rifles among civilians and strict background checks for would-be gun owners. Under my breath I muttered Why have guns at all? Let us beat our swords into plowshares. . . . Where gun ownership by civilians is illegal, as in South Korea, the yearly figure for murders is laughable compared to ours. Statistics cited throughout by speakers were striking if not devastating, especially compared with those of other countries. (I didn't't have room to take notes because we were so closely clumped together.)
"Enough is enough!" was the predominant chant, along with "Never Again!" A moment of silence turned into the six minutes the most recent massacre occurred, when a deranged gunman killed 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida, ironically chosen as the safest place to live in the Sunshine State not long ago.
The speakers were high school students, largely from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who have escalated the battle over gun control and against NRA financial manipulation of the government to a new level--the next revolution, to be led this time by high school students instead of the university-level students who initiated the late sixties societal revolution. The timing of the event, spring, was tied in with the youthfulness of the leadership and the dawn of a new age. Significantly, among the many beautiful songs performed in between speeches, the last was Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A'changing," emblematic of the sixties movements that so rocked society and triggered the ferocious backlash that has, I hope, culminated with Trumpism and is on its way out.
The speeches were brief and hugely poignant: friends and family, all youth, of Parkland and Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School victims spoke out as well as others victimized by gun violence. One speaker vomited and then proclaimed how proud she was to have done so before an international TV audience, which drew laughter and cheers. There was remembrance of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999.
"Vote them out" was the other most frequent chant after "Enough is enough!" My heart soared. Surrounding the area of the event were volunteers to register voters and speakers again and again urged all participants to be sure to vote this November--out with the NRA stooges and in with those who will serve, rather than choose their constituents.
Several celebrities attended, but two featured as speakers, one remotely, were the Nobel laureate and martyr Malala and Martin Luther King's eloquent granddaughter, who already showed leadership and charisma at a tender age of around 8, I'd say, if not younger.