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Lessons from the March for Our Lives 

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click to enlarge The Colorado Springs march was one of the larger protests in city history. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • The Colorado Springs march was one of the larger protests in city history.
Last year’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C., was rightfully criticized for blinding whiteness and a recalcitrant approach to intersectionality, but it did set the precedent for large-scale protest in the Trump era. That was never more apparent than on March 24, when a million or so people again appeared for the March For Our Lives in D.C.

The importance of such activism is incalculable.

Parkland, Florida’s student activists — a stunning example of the “don’t mourn, organize” ethos — have their shit together. They know what to say about guns in this country, while Democrats five times their age leading the so-called #resistance just don’t and never will. The march called attention to school shootings and the gun lobby. But it also pivoted to include any and all victims of gun violence and acknowledged bias, privilege, and racial disparity along the way. It took the Women’s March’s homogeneity and tilted it towards intersectionality.

While it was wisely cast as The March For Our Lives (since protest should always offer hope), at its core, it was an anti-National Rifle Association parade. And that’s a good thing because the NRA is a death cult and has nothing useful or sincere to say about gun rights.

One of the million or so marchers there on Saturday was Nora Ludden. She knows firsthand how long the gun access and gun control debate has circled the drain. She’s a survivor of the 1992 Simon’s Rock shooting, in which 18 year-old Wayne Lo, a student at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Massachusetts, murdered two people on campus and wounded four after purchasing a semi-automatic rifle at a sporting goods store.

“This terrible thing has been going on for a very long time. I was a teenager myself when there was a shooting at my school,” Ludden said. “The shooter was able to get a gun very easily with no waiting period or background check or anything.”

Ludden is one of many Simon’s Rock alumni who signed a petition demanding “more access to mental health services and less access to weapons” following the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. The Newtown shooting happened exactly 20 years after the Simon’s Rock shooting — Dec. 14, 2012 and Dec. 14, 1992.
“Now, you see this continue for decades,” Ludden said. “To see my kids still dealing with the same thing I did is just really heartbreaking.”

You’ve surely seen the march’s speeches by now, especially from Parkland’s David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, but don’t forget about Edna Chavez. The 17-year-old South Central Los Angeles activist paid tribute to her brother Ricardo, who was shot and killed. In doing so, she
culture-jammed much of the boring, big-march bullshit with personal-is-political poetry, and made clear how school shootings and the kinds of gun violence she has endured intertwine.

“You hear a ‘pop’ thinking they were fireworks. They weren’t — you see melanin on your brother’s skin turned gray. Ricardo was his name. Can y’all say it with me?” Chavez asked.

Later, Chavez challenged “solutions” such as more police in schools or more police in general. “Zero tolerance policies do not work,” Chavez said. “They make us feel like criminals.”

The Guardian recently published “Our manifesto to fix America’s gun laws,” written by the staff of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School newspaper. Among the demands was one to “Increase funding for school security,” and here was Chavez, calling “B.S.” on it.

As very young people act very adult and organize (and even disagree), a whole bunch of adults in power are acting like children, especially in and around the White House. President Donald Trump’s revolving-door administration welcomes the warmongering mustache man, John Bolton. What was Bolton doing when he was the age of most of the Parkland students, you may wonder? He ran the Students For Barry Goldwater campaign at the very bougie private school he attended outside of Baltimore.

And then there is Donald Trump Jr., who, it appears, had an affair with Aubrey O’Day of early ’aughts pop group Danity Kane, leading to much media speculation about aging song lyrics and foot photos posted on social media.

Before South Side Chicago rapper Vic Mensa performed at the March For Our Lives, he mentioned two recent victims of police violence. Sacramento’s Stephon Clark was shot 20 times by police in his own backyard, holding a cell phone that cops claim they thought was a gun (they also muted their body cameras during the deadly encounter). Mensa also mentioned Decynthia Clements of Elgin, Illinois, not far from Chicago, who was shot and killed after an extended chase with the police wherein she also lunged at cops with a steak knife and set the inside of her car on fire. An “imperfect” victim of police violence, but a victim nonetheless.

Police have shot and killed almost 250 people already this year, according to The Washington Post. Clark, whose death it does not seem will go away quietly, was only one of the latest, killed on March 18.

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