In 846 marches worldwide, millions of people took to the streets demanding an end to gun violence in the first March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24.
This movement gained major traction in wake of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where Nicholas Cruz shot and killed 17 of his classmates on Feb. 14, 2018.
Following the shooting, many of the students in the school became public faces for anti-gun violence activism and organized several acts of civil disobedience, including walkouts, rallies and now the March for Our Lives.
Though the main event took place in Washington, D.C., “sibling marches” were held across the world, and several Manhattan College students took to the streets of New York City’s March for Our Lives.
The trip to the march was organized by juniors Roman Doumbia and Sydney Kukoda, who are resident assistants in Horan and Lee Hall, respectively.
Both Kukoda and Doumbia have a history of political activism at the college, having organized an event similar to this one for the anniversary of the Women’s March together earlier this semester.
“We decided to run another march event because the women’s march event because the women’s march was not only successful but inspiring. It was amazing to see so many people so excited and eager to be a part of a movement that demanded change,” Doumbia said. “We feel that it’s very important for college students to be informed and involved in the issues that are plaguing our society.”
Student activism has always been pivotal in passing meaningful legislation in America. Particularly during the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement during the 1960s and 1970s, students were largely responsible for forming activist groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and staging walkouts, sit-ins and marches in order to end racial segregation, gain equal voting rights and end the Vietnam War into which they were drafted.
Now history is repeating itself with the students of our nation in the face of gun violence.
“It’s easy to forget about the state of the world and how much we could actually do to change it,” Doumbia said. “But we have to remember that soon, we will be the ones running for office and setting the example for generations that come after us.”
Sophomore Heyi Chang, who attended the march as part of Doumbia and Kukoda’s group, believes that student intervention is essential in political action.
“We as youth are kind of marginally affected by this violence, and a lot of the shootings have been happening in the U.S. The youngest victims, back to Sandy Hook…they were really young kids,” said sophomore Heyi Chang, who attended the march in New York City.
“It’s a responsibility I think that has kind of fallen on us, but we’re almost kind of the group of people who can really advocate for change. And I think that if it starts with youth, which is a really massive part of the individuals that are affected by gun violence in general, I think that it can definitely spread and make an impactful change.”
Along with Kukoda and Doumbia, 18 MC students made their way to 72nd Street and Central Park West to participate in this historic march.
The event began with a rally, in which gun violence survivors and their families gave speeches and pushed for meaningful change. Several of the speakers represented a wide range of major instances of gun violence in the United States, including a librarian from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a concert attendee from Las Vegas, Nev., and a student from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Sophomore international studies and communication major Donovan Reilly felt an obligation to attend the march and voice his support for victims of gun violence.
“I feel like it’s kind of our responsibility to get the word out, because we are the current students and our lives are in jeopardy, ultimately,” Reilly said. “I just felt there was an obligation to do so after so many school shootings and nothing getting done.”
“School shootings are a prevalent issue that we face and especially being in close proximity to New York City, [marching is] something that…we are obligated to do,” Reilly said.
According to Doumbia, though gun violence has been in the news frequently over the past few years, it has always been a problem in America.
“Gun violence has never been a new issue for me, and especially growing up in this country as a woman of color, gun violence is present not only within our community but through the lens of police brutality,” Doumbia said. “Sensible gun control laws aren’t difficult. They aren’t impossible to enforce. And now more than ever, it’s time that we demand them and refuse to back down until we get them.”
Chang believes that several courses of action can be taken in order to prevent further instances of gun violence.
“I think that there should be more background investigations for people who want to buy assault weapons. And I think that there definitely should be some orientations on the type of assault weapons that you purchase,” she said.
Reilly and Doumbia, however, believes that the problem is a systemic one which can be addressed at a voting booth.
“Until people’s viewpoints have changed, I feel like there’s really nothing going to be done unless we show action and get the incompetent people out of office,” he said. “That’s when we can start regulating gun control. But as long as we’re showing our support for getting rid of it and advocating for our lives, I feel like that’s something we could do right now.”
“While marching is wonderful and important, the most important way that students can get involved and politically active is to vote,” said Doumbia. “Get informed about the people who represent you in government. Learn their stances on the issues. If they aren’t representing your needs, vote them out and get someone who will.”
The sentiment of the hundreds of thousands who marched today was epitomized by the Assata Shakur chant, which was shouted with fists in the air by speakers and protesters in one, unshakable voice: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom! It is our duty to win! We must love each other and support each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”