Darya Foroohar, ’20
Large crowds converged at 72nd and Amsterdam at 9:30am on Saturday, March 24, where they trickled down towards Central Park as helicopters monitored overhead. On my way to the event, I had seen various people holding signs or wearing pins, all coming together for the March for Our Lives. People from all over the city had commuted to be there, some coming from other states, like New Jersey. One woman even mentioned that she had come from Florida.
Many people, young and old, held up signs attacking the National Rifle Association and demanding stricter gun control. Some notable signs read “Girls Clothing at School is Regulated More than Guns in America,” “Roses are Red, I’m Calling Your Bluff, Students are Dead, Enough is Enough,” and “Sending Thoughts and Prayers to Paul Ryan’s Career this November.” Children walked alongside seniors, teachers alongside students, and entire families made their way down the crowded streets. Even those without signs were invigorated, adding energy to the march as the crowd made its way down the west side of Central Park.
Various organizations were also present at the march helping to register voters. Many Bard High School Early College students were involved with the Youth Progressive Policy Group, which, along with handing out voter registration forms, collected signatures on a petition to try and lower the New York State voting age to 17 through the Young Voter Act. A few of the seniors who signed the petition made a comparison to the Vietnam War, telling me how they remembered when the “boys were young enough to go off to war but couldn’t do anything about it.” A history teacher who signed the petition, spoke of the importance of voting, saying that when her students turned 18, she gave them voter registration forms “as their birthday present.” While many people at the march did not support lowering the voting age, worrying about the lack of maturity in 17-year-olds, the common idea expressed was that the people who could vote should use their power to install more conscientious politicians.
At around 10:30am, the crowd drew to a halt, aided in part by the police barricades at various intervals along the park. For the next two hours, speakers addressed the people, urging them to keep fighting for gun reform and vote, to have a say in the issues that affect them. The speakers included not only Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and relatives, but also survivors of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, people who lost their parents on September 11, 2001, and members of Guns Down Life Up, one of the many organizations to halt gun violence, especially among youth. The speeches given were emotional, as survivors, recalled hiding from bullets and losing friends and relatives to mass shootings, but the message conveyed was one of resilience and perseverance in the face of tragedy. However, the crowd was reminded that their activism must be intersectional and that it is far more likely for Black and Latino teens to be shot than it is for white teens.
After listening to speeches, original songs, and music, the crowd started moving again a little after noon. The seemingly endless trickle of people made their way down the park to Columbus Circle, chanting “hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go” when passing the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West. Other chants included “school safety is a right, not just for the rich and white.” Much of the spirit came from the teens present, who came in throngs, some carrying megaphones to amplify their energy and their anger at being sent to school without a guarantee of safety. “We vote next” was the common refrain among them, invigorating the enormous crowd. Even on the subway home, while people looked drained from marching for hours, they did not look defeated.