Thousands of people are rallying in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities Saturday for an event calledfollowing recent mass shootings in and .
“Enough is enough,” District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser told the second March for Our Lives rally in her city. “I speak as a mayor, a mom, and I speak for millions of Americans and America’s mayors who are demanding that Congress do its job. And its job is to protect us, to protect our children from gun violence.”
Speaker after speaker in Washington, D.C., called on senators, who are seen as a major impediment to legislation, to act or face being voted out of office, especially given the shock to the nation’s conscience after 19 children and two teachers were killed May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
“If our government can’t do anything to stop 19 kids from being killed and slaughtered in their own school, and decapitated, it’s time to change who is in government,” said David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 shooting that killed 17 students and staff at. He is also a co-founder of the March for Our Lives organization that was created after the shooting and held its first rally in Washington not long afterward.
“This time is different,” Hogg said, leading the crowd to repeat after him. He later led the crowd in chants of “Vote them out.”
Another Parkland survivor and group co-founder, X Gonzalez, delivered an impassioned, profanity-laced plea to Congress for change. “We are being murdered,” she screamed and implored Congress to “act your age, not your shoe size.”
Added Yolanda King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr.: “This time is different because this isn’t about politics. It’s about morality. Not right and left, but right and wrong, and that doesn’t just mean thoughts and prayers. That means courage and action.”
Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was killed in the Parkland shooting, called on students “to avoid going back to school until our elected leaders stop avoiding the crisis of gun violence in America and start acting to save our lives.”
Hundreds gathered at an amphitheater in Parkland, where Debra Hixon, whose husband, high school athletic director Chris Hixon, died in the shooting, said it is “all too easy” for young men to walk into stores and buy weapons.
“Going home to an empty bed and an empty seat at the table is a constant reminder that he is gone,” said Hixon, who now serves as a school board member. “We weren’t done making memories, sharing dreams and living life together. Gun violence ripped that away from my family.”
President Joe Biden, who was in California when the Washington rally began, said his message to the demonstrators was “keep marching,” adding that he is “mildly optimistic” about legislative negotiations to address gun violence. Biden recently delivered an impassioned address to the nation in which he called for several steps, including raising the age limit for buying assault-style weapons.
In the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Mayor Eric Adams, who campaigned on reining in violence in the nation’s largest city, joined state Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing the National Rifle Association, in leading activists on a march toward the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Nothing happens in this country until young people stand up — not politicians,” James said.
Despite rain in the nation’s capital, thousands arrived on the monument grounds well before the rally began, holding up signs, including one that said “Children aren’t replaceable, senators are. Vote.” A middle school-age girl carried a sign that said, “I want to feel safe at school.”
Joining the call for change were hundreds of people who rallied in a park outside the courthouse in Portland, Maine, before they marched through the Old Port and gathered outside of City Hall. At one point, they chanted, “Hey, hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have to die today.”
John Wuesthoff, a retired lawyer in Portland, said he was waving an American flag during the rally as a reminder that gun control is “not un-American.”
“It’s very American to have reasonable regulations to save the lives of our children,” he said.
The passion that the issue stirs was clear in Washington when a young man jumped the barricade and tried to rush the stage before being intercepted by security. The incident caused a brief panic as people began to scatter.
Organizers hoped the second March for Our Lives rally would draw as many as 50,000 people to the Washington Monument. While that would be far less than the original 2018 march with more than 200,000 people, they focused this time on smaller marches at an estimated 300 locations.
In a preview of the anti-gun violence rally, activists laid out 2,280 schoolbooks and broken pencils on the Washington Mall – representing the number of children that have been killed by gun violence in the last 14 months.
In recent years, gun control activism has led to some changes to, but federal legislation has long been elusive.
“To me, the glass is half full. I am optimistic at this moment,” Kris Brown, President of The Brady Campaign, a nonprofit organization that advocates against gun violence, said.
This week,that included raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and a “red flag” bill that would allow courts to confiscate weapons from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Some say the bill stands no chance of passing the evenly divided Senate, but a bipartisan group of senators believes they are making progress on a narrower set of reforms.
“I think focusing on concerns about mental health and on people with criminal background records is an obvious area where I think we can work together,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas.