Protesters Gather Across the U.S. to Speak Out Against Gun Violence
WASHINGTON — After Uvalde, after Buffalo, after Parkland and Newtown and El Paso and hundreds of other mass shootings over the past two decades, thousands of protesters rallied against gun violence on Saturday in Washington, D.C., and in cities across the country.
With their signs, chants and mere presence, they condemned the drumbeat of mass shootings in the United States and renewed a call — so far, a futile one — for federal legislation to limit the use of the military-style weapons that have made many of them possible. Many vowed to fight the inaction at the polls.
“I’ll be taking your thoughts and prayers to the ballot box,” read a sign carried by Maria Vorel, 67, who demonstrated at the Washington Monument.
The Washington rally was briefly thrown into panic when, after a moment of silence for the Uvalde shooting victims, a man threw an unidentified object into the crowd. Hundreds sprinted away from the rally stage after the man apparently shouted, “I am the gun,” local television station WUSA reported.
A speaker quickly calmed the crowd by shouting into the microphone, “Please do not run! There is no issue here!” United States Park Police officers detained the man, charged him with disorderly conduct and disrupting a gathering, and released him with a citation. A spokesman for the Park Police said no weapons were found and the man’s motive was not known.
The demonstrations, organized by March for Our Lives, were a reprise of rallies sponsored by that student group that drew hundreds of thousands of people in 2018, after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
This time, the demonstration in Washington followed shootings last month that left 10 Black people dead in a Buffalo supermarket and killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
The Saturday protests unfolded in hundreds of cities across the country and at a smattering of locations in Europe.
Here are a few scenes from rallies around the country.
They dressed for the occasion.
The thousands who rallied on a rare cool, damp June day wore their message on their T-shirts: “Disarm Hate”; “Actually, guns do kill people”; “Moms Demand Action.”
Jeremy Brandt-Vorel, a 32-year-old marketing expert from Alexandria, Va., and the son of Maria Vorel, remembered hiding in the bushes at his bus stop in 2002, when two men terrorized the Washington area with a series of deadly sniper attacks.
“I think a majority of Americans want common-sense gun control, but they’re not represented in Congress,” he said.
Sarah Kirkland, a 17-year-old senior at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, Va., said she had been practicing classroom lockdown drills since kindergarten. And she was tired of it.
“When the Sandy Hook shooting happened,” in 2012, “I was the age of the victims,” she said. Now, she said, exasperated, she is a couple of months younger than the Uvalde gunman.
About a thousand people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge from Cadman Plaza to an area tucked among the towers of New York’s Financial District that hosted the Occupy Wall Street protests a decade ago.
The protesters, including a marching band wearing white-plumed hats, said their goal was to turn a movement into a power bloc that could achieve reasonable firearms limits.
“Enough is enough,” they chanted, punctuating speeches that included a one-line oration from a 9-year-old: “Please don’t shoot when I’m learning.”
Roxand Tucker, 48, and Angelina Tucker, 52, who are sisters, had marched before, in Central Park, after the Parkland school shooting. “It’s outrageous that we’re still doing this,” said Roxand Tucker, a teacher for 14 years at Ditmas Park Middle School in Brooklyn. “Baffling, actually.”
Julvonnia McDowell, 43, lost her 14-year-old son in 2016, after he was shot “by a 13-year-old who gained access to an unsecured firearm.”
Ms. McDowell came with hundreds of others to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once led the congregation, to demand limits on firearms that would keep others from experiencing the pain she’s felt.
“People can imagine it, but they’re not living it,” she said.
Joe Scott, 37, a social worker and U.S. Army veteran, and Caylynn Scott, a 34-year-old educator, came to protest from Tyrone, Ga., about an hour outside Atlanta, with their 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter. Ms. Scott, who was pregnant with another child, said each school shooting made going to class even scarier.
Pushing a double stroller with tiny legs dangling out the front, the Scotts held a sign that read, “We march for THEIR lives.”
As Frank Ruiz, 41, watched news accounts of the shooting in nearby Uvalde, he said his 8-year-old daughter peppered him with questions: “How could this happen?” “Has this ever happened before?” And finally: “What can we do about it?”
That led Mr. Ruiz, a financial services employee and father of three, to join hundreds of others for a march from San Antonio’s Milam Park to City Hall. He also addressed the crowd.
“I’m one of you,” he said. “I’m a dad and I’m pissed off and scared and tired of guns.”
Danna Halff, whose family owns a ranch not far from Uvalde, said her husband gave her a rifle for their anniversary. But she called on the crowd to urge state leaders to back new limits on who can buy and use assault weapons.
“It happened again,” she said of the tragedy in Uvalde, “and it keeps happening.”
Several hundred people rallied outside City Hall before marching through downtown in support of new gun restrictions. Heather Stephenson, 58, traveled from San Bernardino — the site of a 2015 mass shooting that killed 14 people — to the rally with a sign that read “Enough is Enough” on one side and “Sane Gun Laws” on the other.
“You’ve got to keep contact with people who are in power, and you’ve got to keep pressure on them,” said Ms. Stephenson, who retired from public school teaching on June 3.
Rosemary Soliz, 41, who had joined past gun-violence protests, brought her 10-month-old son Diego Tinajero to the Los Angeles event, the first time she had taken one of her children with her.
“As a mom, it just really is bothering me more right now,” she said. “We just want something to get done. We’re tired of the same thing happening over and over again.”