Josie Hahn, who attends Polytechnic High in Long Beach, is not a survivor of a school shooting. Neither is Sofia Lizardi of Venice High or Edna Chavez of Manual Arts. But all three seniors are part of a movement that found full voice after a 19-year-old wielding a semiautomatic rifle killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Fla., last month.
On Saturday, these students and hundreds of thousands of others are expected to take part in at least 838 marches and other official and unofficial events worldwide in what organizers have called the March for Our Lives.
The Saturday event, spearheaded by Parkland survivors, is a follow-up to the school walkouts on March 14.
Even though pop stars including Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson and Demi Lovato are set to perform at the central rally in Washington, D.C., much attention Saturday will be focused on the students who survived the Valentine Day’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They’ll continue to take the lead in pressuring a Congress that has stalled or reversed measures to restrict the purchase and use of guns.
The largest event in the L.A. area will start at 9 a.m. at 6th and Spring streets downtown.
The three L.A.-area seniors, who are all 17, have different plans for the day.
Josie, the Polytechnic student, helped organize an event in Long Beach that is not directly affiliated with the official march. She expects a strong turnout, with the city’s mayor and a county supervisor in attendance.
Her goals align with those of the Parkland students, who talk about banning assault-style weapons, raising the age to 21 for purchasing or owning a gun and mandating universal background checks for all gun purchasers.
“It’s unfortunate that we have this platform because of a mass shooting, but we are able to use our voice somehow,” Josie said. “And this is just one of the many issues that is arising from this time in our politics.”
Sofia pre-registered to vote at Venice High on March 14 during a school-sanctioned walkout onto the campus’ front lawn. On Saturday, she plans to attend a Santa Monica march.
“I don’t know if I wasn’t paying attention before or the issues are more prevalent now,” Sofia said. “But there are issues I feel more responsible to change.”
For her, catalyzing events in her activism included the election of Donald Trump as president.
“With this election, it shows me that the rest of the country, the older generation, they’re not going to stand up necessarily for what we want as young people,” she said. “It’s more our job now to stand up for what we believe in.”
Edna, of Manual Arts High, south of downtown, is part of a student delegation that March for Our Lives is sending to the Washington rally, where she’s a scheduled speaker on Saturday. Her goal is to call attention to a broader kind of violence, which, she said, permeates her community daily, traumatizing students, or worse. Her brother was 14 in 2007, when he was killed in a shooting outside their home.
She is appealing for more than gun control. She wants improved mental health services, mentorship programs and job opportunities.
“We’ve had a couple of lockdowns at school this year,” said Edna . “I can tell you straight up I’ve seen my peers build up that trauma and anxiety. ... We learn how to duck before we learn how to read.”