“I wasn’t brave enough to protest the Vietnam War, so I’m here today to make up for that.”
Squished in the crowd standing outside the Trump International Hotel in D.C., I heard a woman say this behind me. She was an older white woman with silver hair, wearing a windbreaker that had a “Fairfax County Public Schools” patch on its right breast. Wanting to know more about her, I turned around and asked her what advice she had for this generation of hyper-politically active students. “Be as relentless as is necessary,” she told me.
The March For Our Lives was never supposed to reach the optimistic highs of last year’s Women’s March. It shouldn’t have and it didn’t. It was an angrier, more somber event, perhaps because the demands–coming from children and teens–were more stark: stop killing us, now. The March For Our Lives was inspiring, inclusive, heartbreaking, and, at times, a bit of a mess. But, above all, its leaders and its youngest marchers were relentless. Here are the words of some of those marchers.
Solange and Alejandra, 15 years old, Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland
“Today, just like during the walkouts the other week, I feel more powerful than I ever have as a student with a voice.”
Nick, 16 years old, Woodsberry Forest School in Madison County, Virginia
“It’s about time change happened and, to my state representative: It’s time to listen.”
Oliver, 9 years old, Twinbrook Elementary in Rockville, Maryland
“I’m here today because my school just had a lockdown drill and I don’t want that to happen again.”
Hayden, 16 years old, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School
“I’m here because I want to feel safe at school, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. And if that takes telling my state representative to vote ‘yes’ on all gun control legislation, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Oliver, Penelope and Simon; seven years old, seven years old, and 13 years old; Nottingham Elementary and Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington, Virginia
Oliver and Penelope: “We’re here because we don’t want to get killed!”
Simon: “The current situation is not tolerable and this is one of the main ways that we can start to change it. If I had the chance to speak on stage today–if I didn’t freak out–I’d say that [young people] are not just nameless tools for politicians. We have something to say. My brother, sister, and I have been to a bunch of protests in the past year with our parents and at every one of them I still have mixed feelings. It’s good that so many young people march and protest but it’s time the politicians listened to us.”
Natalia, 18 years old, Westbury High School in Old Westbury, New York
“I took a bus down here with my classmates because all of this has got to stop. How is it that someone can get a military-grade weapon and be a civilian at the same time? And why are those guns even available? And, by the way, as a person of color, it’s important for me to speak out on my right to exist. On my right to not suffer from police brutality. There are so many gun issues in this country today, not just school shootings. Parkland is just part of the story. I’m 18 years old now. I can vote. And I’m going to use that vote. Today was just the beginning of something so much bigger.”