On April 20, the 19th anniversary of Columbine, students across NYC walked out of class to a rally against gun violence in Washington Square Park. The rally was a massive success, earning nationwide coverage, esteemed politician attendees, and a turnout of around 8,000 students.
The rally was entirely organized by a student-led organization called “NYC Says Enough,” which I co-founded with around 19 other kids from schools around the city. We spent a little under two months planning the rally, bound together through our passion and anger, fueled by the MSD shooting on February 14. We organized the event through daily discussions on a messenger app and weekly Sunday meetings: doing everything from getting the permit, to planning the speakers and booths, to raising around $13,000 to cover the expenses. It was hard work, but we knew this rally was going to be another step forward in our fight for change. The night before the rally, we had a dinner with some mass shooting survivors who came to New York for the rally. Those who joined us included Amalia Fernand from Columbine, Christopher Hansen from Pulse, and Isabelle Robinson and Aalayah Eastmond from Parkland. (Plus a surprise video from Emma Gonzalez wishing us good luck.) Their tragic stories reminded us all of why we were doing this and what we were fighting against. Why it was time to say Enough is Enough.
The morning of the rally began with a die-in at 10:30, organized by some NYU students who heard about what we had planned and wanted to partake. Several hundred people lay on the pavement, our bodies outlined in chalk to symbolize all the lives taken by gun violence. Y2VOTE, a federal voting assistance program, then came and helped register eligible students to vote in the 2018 midterm and to give pledges to underage students to vote when legally allowed.
As we came closer to our 12:00 p.m. start, school by school arrived, filling Washington Square with the chants of empowered students.
By the time we’d begun, the energy and emotion in the crowd was palpable, a sea of orange surrounding the arch as far as the eye could see. From the politicians to the survivors to the song performances to the NYCSE members and other student speakers, each person who stepped on that stage had their own powerful story to tell.
I got the opportunity to speak as well, about something very personal: growing up in a conservative family. In order to educate myself on gun reform, I utilized the internet, something everyone should do to keep themselves fully informed.
It was an amazing experience standing up there speaking and leading chants. I looked into the eyes of thousands of students who share the same fiery passion for the issue as I do. I saw just how many kids in our city alone were bold enough to leave school and protest for three hours with their peers. I’ve never felt more hope for our future and our generation. And it didn’t stop on April 20. We won’t quit the fight until common sense gun laws are made. The students of NYC and nationwide are in the spotlight now, and we will continue to make our voices heard. The walkout was just the beginning.