As hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to protest gun violence, demonstrators gathered in Huntington Beach and in cities around the nation to share in the March for Our Lives, a response to the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.
At 10 a.m., an estimated 2,000 people congregated at Huntington’s Lake Park for a march to City Hall to voice demands for congressional action to stem gun violence and improve school safety.
Other rallies in Orange County were planned in Laguna Beach, Santa Ana, Irvine, Brea, Fullerton and San Clemente.
The March for Our Lives followed a series of nationwide student walkouts March 14 to honor the Parkland victims and urge further gun controls.
The Huntington Beach rally was organized by students from Marina High School who reached out to members of the Associated Student Bodies from three other schools in the Huntington Beach Union High School District — Huntington Beach, Ocean View and Edison. The plan, in conjunction with the Huntington Beach Youth Board, was for a brief walk from Lake Park to City Hall, followed by brief speeches.
Throughout the two-hour event, an airplane circled overhead towing a banner reading, “Rep. Rohrabacher: Vote 4 kids not NRA” — references to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and the National Rifle Assn., the powerful gun-rights advocacy group that has come under heavy criticism in the wake of the Florida massacre and other mass shootings.
One sign at the rally listed companies that support or do business with the NRA.
Other signs carried messages including “We are done taking bullets for Congress,” “Want assault weapons? Go join the Army” and “AR-15s are not healthy for children and other living things.” The Florida shooting was committed with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.
Noticeably absent were guns-rights advocates, or if there were any, they didn’t make their presence known.
The shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had an immediate and profound effect, according to Marina High School student Briana Spainhour, one of the rally’s organizers.
“There was a fire alarm two days after Parkland, and the first reaction everyone had was to lock the door and hide in the back. … Teachers didn’t even open the doors,” she said.
Zachary Spiegel, a Stoneman Douglas survivor, was vacationing in the area and attended the Huntington Beach rally with his parents.
“It feels good to have a lot of support from everyone,” he said. “It means a lot to the community.”
His father, Jeff, added: “This doesn’t just affect one person, it affects everybody as a whole. Everybody’s one big family.”
Regarding gun control, he said: “There is definitely a problem which needs to be addressed, and hopefully this is the first step in a long row to make things happen. So we’re hoping.”
Since the initial shock, many student activists have taken their first political steps by organizing events such as Saturday’s march and the March 14 walkouts.
A principal takeaway from the event is that many students are aiming to use the power of voting in this year’s elections.
“We have to be brave,” said Sydney Ly, another Marina High student. “Change does not happen overnight, and history cannot be made without courage and perseverance. Please vote for the people that represent your interests. … We have the power now, and as cliche as it is, the future is in our hands.”