The kids are not all right with being shot at anymore, so they’re heading for the streets. This weekend saw protests outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, and inside a Paul Ryan fundraiser in Florida. And coming up next, plans for marches in Washington and across the country to protest gun violence, as well as a national school walkout to mark the anniversary of the Columbine massacre. It’s almost as if they’re tired of waiting for the alleged grown-ups to do something.
Friday night, some 300 protesters gathered outside NRA headquarters to say they’ve had enough. Or rather, to shout it. Among them were family members of some of the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, as well as friends of victims in Florida. Gillian Beard, pictured up top, is a college freshman from Coral Gables, Florida, who was in Washington for a planned trip to celebrate her 19th birthday with her family. But instead, she was at the protest, because her best friend, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Beard wasn’t one of the featured speakers, but ended up addressing the crowd anyway:
“I am burying my best friend next week. . . . I grew up with him. I flew in last night, crying on the plane,” Beard told the crowd, who huddled along the sidewalk outside the building. “This is my birthday. I can’t even celebrate that I am 19 today. I lost one of my best friends because of something that could have been stopped.”
Closer to the site of last week’s murders, Paul Ryan went ahead with a planned GOP fundraiser in Key Biscayne, because he’d already gotten his thoughts and prayers out of the way, tweeted that the shooting was “pure evil,” and sent the House on its Presidents Day recess without so much as a perfunctory moment of silence for the 17 dead (they’ll take care of that next week). But the fundraiser sure seemed like a nice party:
— PerSisters (@PERSlSTERS) February 17, 2018
As it turns out, one of the people who showed up at the fundraiser was Maria Thorne, a troublemaking activist and fifth-grade teacher who’d spent much of Friday reassuring kids in her classroom that she’d keep them safe from bad people like school shooters. When she saw a motorcade and heard that Paul Ryan was doing a fundraiser at the Ritz, she and a friend crashed the party to say hi and see if she could talk to Ryan about keeping kids safe. We’ll let the Miami Herald handle the heavy narrative lifting from here:
Thorne said she found Ryan in the middle of the room — “I shook his hand and everything,” she said — and introduced herself as a teacher and Key Biscayner.
“Nice,” the Republican congressman replied.
“Nice?” Thorne said. “You’re here celebrating the death of 17 children.”
At that, Thorne said, Ryan told her he “didn’t want to talk politics” or argue. When Thorne tried to continue, security escorted her out. She chanted “No more guns!” on her way out the door, she said.
Thorne told the Herald that she’d seen enough horror in her native Peru before coming to the US, and that the Columbine massacre in 1999 had been a turning point for her:
“I lived through terrorism and bombings, but I’ve never witnessed anything like that in my life,” she said […]
“I’m tired. Nobody listens. Everybody tries to twist it around,” she said. “I’m a registered Democrat, but right now I just don’t want anybody that’s been fed by the NRA, otherwise this is never going to stop.”
Clearly a dangerous radical. Something must be done, and it will probably be a congressional inquiry into security at GOP fundraisers.
And what’s next? The kids are taking the lead on calling for better gun safety laws, because it looks to them like the people in power are entirely too afraid of (or in the pocket of) the NRA. So they’re planning not just one but a series of national actions. (Why more than one? Looks to us like a whole bunch of different groups of kids decided they wanted to do events, and picked different dates. Democracy and activism can be messy that way! And can also be more effective in keeping people active than a one-and-done.) The Women’s March youth branch, “EMPOWER,” is starting things off with a call for a national school walkout on March 14, the one-month anniversary of the shootings in Parkland.
A bunch of students from Stoneman Douglas High have also started organizing an event for March 24 in Washington DC, called the “March for Our Lives,” which is also encouraging related marches in other cities:
The protest will “demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues,” according to its mission statement. “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.”
Then on April 20, another national school walkout is planned to mark the 19th anniversary of Columbine. That walkout was organized through an online petition drive by Stoneman Douglas students and by a 15-year-old girl, Lane Murdock, who lives 20 miles away from Sandy Hook Elementary School and has had enough of the killing. Why, yes, there’s a Twitter account, too.
RelatedThe Kids Of Stoneman Douglas High Would Like You To Kindly Stuff Your Thoughts, Prayers And Guns, Please
We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around […] This is about us begging for our lives; this isn’t about the GOP, this isn’t about the Democrats, this is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.
David Hogg, the MSD student journalist who interviewed kids hiding in an office during the lockdown, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he won’t “feel safe going back to school myself until reasonable mental health care legislation and gun control legislation is passed.”
And Carly Novell, who tweeted last week that 70 years after her grandfather was the only survivor of a 1949 mass shooting that killed his family, she found herself hiding from a mass shooting in a closet, too (and that’s insane), jumped on the Tweeters again yesterday after Donald Trump tried to suggest that somehow the FBI was too busy persecuting him to stop the shooter in Florida:
These kids are pretty damned impressive. You can tell they’re getting their message across, since rightwingers are already accusing them of being mindless dupes of shadowy leftists who are manipulating their grief. We don’t think so — if anything, they strike us as very savvy kids who have grown up with social media and know how to make use of the grownups’ tools. And they don’t seem likely to just go back to playing video games. And definitely not any first person shooters.