Millions march for gun control
“Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”
On March 24, an estimated 800,000 people joined together in Washington, D.C., for a demonstration in support of the above mission statement (USA Today, “March for Our Lives could be the biggest single-day protest in D.C.’s history,” 03.25.2018). The demonstration, called March For Our Lives, was a protest against gun violence, specifically focusing on the recent school shootings that highlight the threats of firearms.
The March For Our Lives event was organized primarily by students involved in the #NeverAgain movement. #NeverAgain was started by survivors of the school shooting that took place on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, killing 17 students and faculty (BBC, “March For Our Lives: Huge gun-control rallies sweep US,” 03.24.2018). Some of these survivors spoke at the March For Our Lives event in Washington, including Emma Gonzalez, who has become a face of the movement since she began to speak out against lawmakers in the days following the shooting in her high school. At the rally, she led an unexpected moment of silence lasting six minutes and twenty seconds—the same amount of time the massacre at her school lasted (People, “Emma Gonzalez Cries While Leading Powerful Moment of Silence During March for Our Lives Protest,” 03.24.2018).
The rally also featured a speech from 11-year-old activist Naomi Wadler, who spoke in honor of the African American girls who get killed due to gun violence—both in school shootings and racially motivated shootings involving police—but rarely make the news (CBS, “March for Our Lives 2018 – Live Blog,” 03.24.2018). Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., spoke at the Washington event as well, stating, “I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun free world” (Forbes, “A Star Is Born: MLK’s Granddaughter At The March For Our Lives,” 03.24.2018). Along with speeches from young activists and students, multiple celebrities joined in by performing and marching, including Ben Platt, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Miley Cyrus and George Clooney.
While the Washington march was the largest, the #NeverAgain movement quickly gained support from students around the world, who helped organize sister marches throughout the United States, as well as in other countries. In all, over 800 March For Our Lives events took place on March 24 (CBS, “March for Our Lives 2018 – Live Blog,” 03.24.2018). Among these there were marches in New York City and Boston, and one in the Hudson Valley, which drew more than 7,000 supporters (Poughkeepsie Journal, “More than 7,000 rally for gun regulation at March For Our Lives Hudson Valley,” 03.24.2018).
The events received a great deal of attention from politicians on both ends of the political spectrum, though responses ranged in their support for the demonstration and movement itself. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the movement, tweeting, “Our future is in the right hands.” Former president Barack Obama responded on Twitter in the same vein, writing, “Keep at it. You’re leading us forward” (CBS, “March for Our Lives 2018 – Live Blog,” 03.24.2018). The official statement from the White House did not take a side on the gun control debate, but commended the young activists for exercising first-amendment rights (Bustle, “The White House Statement On March For Our Lives Is … Brief,” 03.24.2018).
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, stated that he supported the right of students to march, but that he hoped protesters would find common ground with opponents (CBS, “March for Our Lives 2018 – Live Blog,” 03.24.2018). He also stated, “Many other Americans do not support a gun ban. They too want to prevent mass shootings, but view banning guns as an infringement on the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens that ultimately will not prevent these tragedies” (ABC News, “Sen. Marco Rubio gets swift pushback for comments on March for Our Lives,” 03.24.2018). This statement was met with pushback because it misinterpreted the goals of the march as calling for a gun ban. The National Rifle Association did not respond to the movement.
Going forward, student activists are determined to keep the issue of school safety and gun violence alive through social media and future events. The next national walkout is planned for April 20, on the anniversary of the 1998 Columbine massacre. The #NeverAgain movement is also helping register young voters in their fight against violence (The Washington Post, “Next steps for student activists: More marches, walkouts, and voting,” 03.24.2018).
—Pazit Schrecker, Guest Reporter
Brazilian politician murdered
[TW: Violence against a queer woman of color]
On the night of March 14, Brazil councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro Gomez were murdered after leaving an event called “Black Women Changing Power Structures” in Rio de Janeiro. The killing of the long-time human rights activist has mobilized thousands of people around the world to demand justice (Time, “The Assassination of Brazilian Politician Marielle Franco Turned Her Into a Global Icon,” 03.22.2018).
As Franco was leaving the event, an unidentified person in a vehicle approached her car and opened fire, killing her and her driver. Marielle was shot four times in the head, and a press officer sitting in the back seat was also badly wounded. Nine shots were fired total (Al Jazeera, “Marielle Franco may be gone, but she is not silenced,” 03.21.2018).
Born and raised in the Maré favela, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous slums, 38-year-old Franco was a fierce advocate for marginalized communities, including the poor, Afro-Brazilians, women and the LGBTQ community, all of which she considered herself a part of. Franco was also a harsh critic of Brazilian President Michel Temer’s federal intervention in the city. As a Black lesbian single mother, she was a minority several times over in Brazilian politics and the only Black woman in Rio’s 51-member city council (Time).
Being raised in Maré had a significant influence on Franco and her family. The Brazilian favelas, or slums, are home to approximately 140,000 people, two drug gangs and a paramilitary group. The neighborhoods also have one of the lowest human development indexes in Rio. Franco’s sister recalled how they had to cope with school being canceled because of street violence, and would often walk by bodies lying in the streets. Despite this, Franco made it to university, earned a Master’s degree and became a Brazilian councilor who won the fifth most votes in the 2016 Rio election (BBC News, “Marielle Franco: Vivacious fighter shaped by the favela,” 22.03.2018)
When interviewed after Franco’s death, her sister hypothesized that Franco was killed because she was becoming too much of a menace to the Brazilian government (BBC News). Her assassination was a message to human rights defenders: by killing Franco, her opposition also tried to kill the resistance, and suppress the fight for equal rights.
Many activists believe Franco was killed for speaking out against abuses of military and police power in Brazil. Several people have also critiqued the Brazilian law enforcement for repeatedly impugning peaceful protestors. These protests, most of which are led by young Brazilians, focus on mass discontent with the Brazilian leadership and dissatisfaction with the nation’s political system as a whole. As police continue to investigate Franco’s murder, many of her followers are looking to the upcoming elections as an opportunity to continue the work that she has started (Time).
The importance of Marielle Franco as a political figure in Brazil as well as the devastation in the wake of her death cannot be overstated. As a queer, poor woman of color, Franco was a minority within Brazil’s political institutions. However, she represented the majority of the Brazilian people, many of whom are female, Black and also live in the favelas. Her legacy lives on in the lasting changes she has made in Brazil and in the work of the many she inspired.
—Mary Retta, Guest Reporter