‘March for Our Lives’ Takes Center Stage on the National Mall

By Thomas F. King

The National Mall once again served as the Stage for Our Democracy on March 24, 2018 when some 800,000 people descended on it for the “March for Our Lives,” calling for an end to gun violence (Disclaimer: Fox News claims that the crowd wasn’t that big).

The local march — concentrated along Pennsylvania Avenue NW and hence presumably creating little offence to the turf – was inspired and spearheaded by a remarkable cohort of survivors of the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It was one of many in cities and towns across the country and around the world. Marchers called for new legislation to ban the private civilian possession of military-style guns and ammunition, and spoke out against the National Rifle Association (NRA), its supporters, and their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

The crowd at the National Mall taking part in the March for Our Lives (Photograph by Thomas F. King)
The crowd at the National Mall taking part in the March for Our Lives (Photo: Thomas F. King)

The weather cooperated; though crisp, it brought no rain or snow, and only light winds to trouble the many carriers of hand-made signs and banners. The crowd – those portions of it with which I interacted on the street and on the Metro – mostly comprised a diverse selection of young people but included plenty of older folks, including some who, like me, could compare the event with the peace marches of the 1960s. It held up very well. The young speakers from Parkland and elsewhere – including the remarkable eleven-year-old(!) Naomi Wadler from Alexandria – were deeply impressive. I am doubtless not the only ancient in the crowd to find memories of Jack and Bobby Kennedy flittering through my mind as I listened to seventeen-year-old David Hogg’s speech. His classmate Emma González gave an address whose use of silence – while she waited for the minutes to run out that the shooter had had to slaughter her friends – was more effective than I could ever have dreamed such a rhetorical device to be.

The Washington Post’s Cortland Milloy, writing in the March 26th edition, has very rightly commended DC Security chief Chris Rodriguez and his multi-jurisdictional team for keeping the marchers safe. He has also rightly pondered without resolution the question of why “enough munitions and manpower to topple a small country” had to be mobilized for this purpose.

Not all readers may feel, as I do, that we need to do much more to bring gun violence under control, but whatever your persuasion on the subject, it ought to be heartening to see the National Mall used by the American people as a place to make their views known to the president and Congress.

• Thomas F. King, PhD, is a free-lance writer, cultural anthropologist, and historic preservation consultant.


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