We don’t do much around here but when we do you can bet we cram it all into one weekend. After wearing ourselves (or at last me) out at International Night last night, we got up early this morning to go to the March for our Lives in Atlanta. I made signs earlier this week since I was the only one that had time. Katy was at Disciple Now all last weekend at church. I wondered how the poster board business is doing with all these marches and protests. The Women’s March caused a run on pink yarn and clear backpacks and the porta-potty businesses have to have been raking it in these last 16 months.
Katy really wanted to attend the march. She doesn’t worry about going to school, she knows she’s still in more danger just driving or riding in a car, but would like to see something done in the way of stricter gun laws and more background checks.
I would like to see more responsibility on the behalf of some gun owners. I know most of them are responsible, but when someone isn’t, there’s potential for tragedy. Two days ago a four-year-old shot and his seven-month-old sibling (no word yet on whether the baby survived). Last week a nine-year-old boy got into an argument over the video game controller with his 13-year-old sister. It was typical sibling squabble until the little brother got a hold of a gun and shot and killed his sister. A 13 year old is dead, a nine year old has to live with the fact that he did it and a family is destroyed. Two teenagers near us were murdered by a man who was mentally ill and so dangerous his parents had thrown him out of the house because they were afraid of him. He got a loaded gun out his parents’ unlocked vehicle and headed out looking for trouble. and in a would-be tragedy, a toddler playing in the front seat of the car while his mother loaded groceries opened the glove box, found a gun and shot her. She said later she and her husband both have concealed-carry permits and she wasn’t sure if that was her gun or her husband’s. She had a gun and didn’t know where it was. What good does it do to put the bleach on a high shelf and put baby gates at the top of the stairs if you leave a gun where a child can get to it.
And I’ve seen this type of irresponsibility in my family. When I was in high school I guess we went to visit my grandparents. My brother got bored with the adult talk in the living room and asked if he could go back in the bedroom and watch TV. My Mamaw said yes “but don’t open the nightstand drawer, there’s a loaded gun in there”. My mom about had heart failure right then and there. My brother wasn’t going to touch a gun but I can think of a couple of cousins who would have forgotten all about the TV and made a beeline for the gun just to check it out.
It’s not being anti-gun, it’s being pro-safety and common sense. Last week on 60 Minutes they did a long segment on the Parkland, Fla., youth who have spear-headed this movement. If you didn’t see that last week, see if you can find it online, it was very good. The reporter asked if any of the students had guns in their homes. Two boys raised a hand. One boy said he feels safer having a gun in the house “but there are guns for protection and guns for war”.
So enough of the soap box. The march was very good. Police estimated there were 30,000 people but that was probably how many were at Liberty Plaza. There seemed to be more at the march and some people did bail out right at the end. Probably to beat the crowd on the trains
The march started with a rally at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta right near The World of Coke and The Georgia Aquarium. We got there a little more than an hour before it started and found a good spot right behind the podium. Couldn’t see much but we could hear everything. The kids had a great music playlist going.
This poor girl was just standing around waiting when she realized left out the T “in “Stronger” on her sign. Katy loaned her a Sharpie to fix it.
There were several groups and speakers at the opening rally. There were a group of current students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and also a group of alumni. One of the students, a friend of one of the shooting victims, gave a speech. Two local high school students spoke and talked about students panicking when a fire alarm went off at school unexpectedly and when a bag full of weapons was found in a high school stadium.
All of the students who spoke, from 10th grade through college, were so good. The one adult to speak at the beginning was Rep. John Lewis. It was pointed out that he was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963 and the oldest speaker today. He walked up to the stage to lots of cheers. He talked about how President Kennedy, who he had met twice, was killed in an act of gun violence. After speaking he shook a few hands, including the lady standing in front of me. We were behind him but managed to get some photos and video. You can’t see him in the video, but you can hear his speech.
After the speeches the march started. The plan had been for all the students to march in front with the parents and other adults behind offering their support. But that didn’t happen, too many people to try to sort everyone out. We did engage a little civil disobedience trying to get to the route.
I haven’t scaled a fence like that since I was jaywalking across Holland Road in Singapore in high school. It was much easier back then.
A few of my favorite signs.
I really appreciated that this woman included the Nickle Mines School shooting where five little Amish girls and their 19-year-old teacher were murdered.They often seem to be overlooked. I just read a story the other day while looking for that number about one of the boys in the class. At 12 he was the oldest boy and had extreme survivor’s guilt. He developed anorexia and ended up in the hospital. You don’t have to be hit by a bullet to be a victim.
The march was 1.6 miles to Liberty Plaza, a new grassy area with space for demonstrations and the like right across the street from the Capitol. As we got close to the end church bells started ringing and Heath wanted some video of that so we could get the sound of the bells. I don’t know if you can really hear it over all the chanting.
As we neared Liberty Plaza there were Jumbotrons showing video clips of students and how they have been affected by gun violence and Katy recognized someone she knows from school.
We went right through the heart of downtown and passed some Atlanta landmarks. There’s a basketball championship going on and at one point I said “I smell popcorn”. Heath said “that’s because we’re passing a stadium”.
There was a short rally at the end. We all crammed onto the grass so a photographer in a bucket truck could get a photo to send to Washington. If I ever find the photo online I’ll post it.
We heard from another Marjory Stoneman student, two women from Spellman College and a young man from Morehouse. The main speaker, though, was Antoinette Tuff, the school secretary who talked down a man with a assault rifle who found his way in the elementary school with an AK-47. She held him at the office until the police came, talking to him and listening. When the police arrived there was some gunfire but no one was hurt. She said “he parked next to my car!”. She talked about what she’s done since then to help students, awarding scholarships, and passed out a couple of bags of school supplies to children in the crowd.
Then we headed to the nearest MARTA station and ended up sitting on a bench next to a couple of Johns Creek High School students we had met the night before at International Night. They were doing the Iran booth and I got the names of the places they got their food from.
I was a little bit nervous about this march as this is such a hot-button issue but there was no trouble at all.