Apr 4th, 2018, 11:51 AM

We Marched for Our Lives, so What Now?

By Elizabeth Nguyen Son
Image Credit: Elizabeth Nguyen Son
"We are here to say NEVER AGAIN, not one more."

On a sunny Saturday that seemed like any other, Americans all over France gathered in Paris at the Place du Trocadéro to protest in solidarity with Washington D.C. for better gun control. According to the Facebook event, over 370 people attended the standing rally and another 619 were interested in the event. Exiting the Trocadéro metro station by the Théatre Chaillot, you could already see young teenagers with their mothers holding up signs and posters.

As the crowd gathered closer waiting for speeches from the organizers, many took the initiative to start chants. AUP student Beatrice Spencer arrived later at the rally and immediately began chanting the same chant she did at the Women's March, "Show me what democracy looks like!" and the entire group would chant back, "This is what democracy looks like!"

The organizers soon approached the microphone and the crowd circled around them. Caitlin Waters thanked everyone for coming before introducing her team behind March for Our Lives Paris: Tommaso Israely, Claire Mouton, Emily Beam, and Claudia Varney. This was followed by speeches from some of the organizers, as well the ever so moving Pastor Victor Greene, the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at the American Church in Paris.

Students from Marymount International School, Paris attended the standing rally with posters accompanied by their mothers. From left to right: Daniele, Laney, Emerson, and Isabel. Image Credit: Elizabeth Nguyen Son

Shortly after the rally in Paris Tommaso Israely revealed why he got involved in the movement, saying, "Emily, Claire and I go to high school together and decided that we wanted to initiate a sister march. We saw on Facebook that somebody else had already an event scheduled and we got in contact with them. They turned out to be Caitlin and Claudia, and the five of us got to work together on the protest. [...] We saw that amazing, brave, resilient teenagers initiated the March For Our Lives movement in the United States. Being the same age as them, we understood that if a Paris sister march was to be organized it should be done by high-school students and young adults."

"My expectations for the rally were that we would get mainly Americans, of all ages, but mostly older people, who were already involved in politics. Instead, our crowd was much larger than we expected filled with young people from all over the world," Israely said. "Many people came up to us and explained that it was their first time protesting because they really believed in this cause.  but what surprised me the most was the energy in the crowd, the young people leading the protest, and chanting the loudest won't take 'no' for an answer, they will not accept politicians brushing it aside saying that it is "too big of an issue to fix", so in November, they will be voting NRA puppets out of office. We were in contact with the organizers of the D.C. rally both before and after. We didn’t have any real discussions about the rally, but we’ve been focusing our efforts on what comes next."

AUP student Beatrice Spencer leading a chant at the March for Our Lives in Paris. Image Credit: Elizabeth Nguyen Son

When asked whether he thinks this movement is enough to create policy changes in the near future, Israely responded, "I think we have already seen attempts at policy changes. In Florida, legislators raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, banned bump stocks and created a waiting period. While this bill isn’t perfect it takes some steps in the right direction. Similarly, on a federal level, Congress has lifted the ban on gun research. However, this is only the beginning, we will not cease fighting until our demands are met."

"One of the co-organizers, Caitlin Waters, said at the march, "Let's not stop marching today. Let's march every day. March until November. March into that voting booth and vote out the politicians who don't want gun control." The most important part at this stage is to make sure that Americans abroad are registered to vote, and vote in November. To check voter registration status, everyone should go to vote from abroad. This is especially important for people voting for the first time, or for the first time overseas. Second, we must write and call our representatives and tell them that gun control is a litmus test for us, and make it clear that if they are not proactive in passing new gun control measures we will vote them out of office. Finally, everyone must keep up the momentum that we saw at the rally, up until November, so that this issue doesn't leave the center-stage in our political debates."

Image Credit: Elizabeth Nguyen Son

What has been happening since?

Approximately a month after the march, the March For Our Lives group in Springfield, Missouri, organized a town hall that took place on Saturday, April 28th, 2018. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss gun control and gun violence in an attempt to keep the momentum going. Additionally, Matthew McConaughey, who spoke at the march in Austin, Texas, reiterated his support for gun control while in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was promoting his new film "White Boy Rick." 

According to the Associated Press, McConaughey hopes that anti-gun activists and the NRA can compromise and find balance. "We both agree that there’s an epidemic. We both agree something has got to change. So I was for what they were marching for, and I wanted to speak to my hometown on the capital of my state, Texas' steps."

Mr. McConaughey explains, “I’ve got a lot of friends who are gun owners. I’ve got a lot of friends who are NRA (National Rifle Association). I grew up hunting. We had responsible gun ownership, but I was taught the right way to respect that tool. At the same time, their petition that they were speaking about is a very good one. And I also fear that their campaign — they have to watch that they don’t get hijacked. Meaning, a lot of the crowd was for no guns at all. That was not the march for life. March for Our Lives was for rightful, just, responsible gun ownership — but against assault rifles, against unlimited magazines and for following up on the regulations.”