Many of the thousands who recently converged near the Washington Monument and White House for the second March for Our Lives protest lamented not seeing more policy changes since gun control activist David Hogg and others organized the first protest in 2018.
As a matter of fact, indignation toward elected officials, gun lobbyists and Second Amendment enthusiasts permeated the air on Saturday afternoon as speaker after speaker took to the podium and reflected on losing loved ones and living in constant fear.
Though she empathized with those gunned down in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York, District resident Sheila Carr noted that gun violence, at the hands of police officers and community members, has long ravaged majority-Black communities.
As she reflected on the trauma of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Carr, a grandmother from Ward 7, recounted seeing a peer’s lifeless body carried out on a stretcher in the 1960s after a young man entered the gymnasium at what was then Hines Junior High School in Southeast and shot him in the chest.
“We have been crying about gun violence for a long time and now that it’s in your community, it’s [related to] trauma and PTSD,” Carr said.
“With the things we went through, we still prospered but then they put their foot on our necks,” she added. “Everything other people are experiencing, we have gone through for decades. We have said ‘enough is enough’ for centuries and no one paid attention.”
On Saturday, June 11, March for Our Lives rallies took place in D.C. and other U.S. cities. The event in D.C. went as planned, other than an encroachment of a Second Amendment advocate who held a large sign in the middle of the crowd. Several minutes later, attendees ran from near the stage area during a brief gun scare.
Over the course of two hours, several people took to the stage, including Minister Denise Walden-Glenn of VOICE Buffalo and Garnell Whitfield, the son of Ruth Whitfield, the oldest of 10 people gunned down in Tops Grocery Store last month. In her remarks, Congresswoman Cori Bush (Missouri-1st District) recounted her bouts with gun violence.
Other speakers included Yolanda King and Hogg, accompanied by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, who lost their son Joaquin in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In a moment that shocked onlookers, DC Public Schools alumnus and Harvard University student RuQuan Brown criticized D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) minutes after she introduced him for what he described as her lack of action in addressing gun violence.
Brown, who lost his stepfather as well as several friends to gun violence, espoused love as the answer and said it should permeate in how elected officials treat constituents.
Carlond Decoteau, a Queens, New York resident who attended March for Our Lives for the second time, also had words for elected officials, particularly Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Decoteau, a self-avowed conservative who hails from Trinidad & Tobago, said Republicans’ penchant for putting money over people has kept him from supporting the political party on a bevy of issues.
In his criticism, Decoteau pointed out that they have ignored the will of the people for too long. He said people have to utilize what he described as one of the most powerful tools at their disposal.
“What’s sickening me and making my stomach churn is that we have the power but people still vote for politicians like Ted Cruz,” Decoteau said. “We have to use our fingers and pens to vote these people out. Why would the minority control the majority? They have to listen to the will of the people. They have to include everyone.”
Since the mass shooting in Buffalo and Uvalde, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act has made its way through Congress. After passing the House of Representatives, however, Senate Republicans blocked debate on the bill that, if passed, would authorize federal agencies to monitor and jointly report on acts of domestic terrorism, particularly those related to white supremacists.
Other courses of action that have been explored in recent weeks include an expansive executive order by the Biden administration and bipartisan legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases and to keep guns out of the hands of those designated as mentally ill.
However, there hasn’t been much traction, much to the chagrin of many people, including Chevy Chase, Maryland resident Rasheeda Campbell.
Campbell, who also attended the first March for Our Lives, came to the rally eager to listen to the speakers and continue the push for a legislative solution. With more than 250 mass shootings this year, Campbell said she has grown frustrated by the lack of action that has even affected a member of her family.
“We can no longer rely on the government to help,” Campbell said. “Things get worse every day [and] they put guns before the lives of people. This is becoming a public health issue like the pandemic. We could easily get gun control if people cared.”