March for Our Lives rally in LA stands towards gun violence

Nick Nyein walked down Spring Street as the March for Our Lives LA drew to a close at City Hall on Saturday, sweat dripping from his forehead, neck and back.

The 18-year-old knew the day was going to be hot – as one of three co-organizers of the LA march, it was his job to know that – but that didn’t make it any more bearable.

But as he returned to the stage and surveyed the crowd, he saw the crowds showing up after a slow start to the day. There were hundreds of noisy demonstrators.

Passing cars honked their horns and drivers raised their fists in support. People waiting at a nearby bus stop shouted and joined the crowd, chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

“That,” Nyein said, her voice cracking, “is all worth it now.”

Archie the dog joined owner Gaby Navarro and over 1,000 others outside LA City Hall to continue to call for new gun laws after Saturday’s march.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Over 1,000 people gathered around downtown City Hall for the student-led march against gun violence sparked by recent mass shootings, including one at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and another at a convenience store in Buffalo, NY which together killed 31 people.

The LA March for Our Lives rally was one of hundreds held across Southern California and the nation Saturday in solidarity with a flagship march in Washington, DC. The movement emerged after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, USA. 17 people died.

Just hours before the march in LA, thousands of people flocked to the National Mall to celebrate the most spectacular demonstration to mark a renewed push for gun control. Cities like New York City, Atlanta and Chicago followed suit.

In Los Angeles, organizers, gun violence survivors and gun control advocates gathered the crowd before the march to City Hall.

March co-organizer Shaadi Ahmadzadeh, 19, called for universal background checks, raising the age for legal gun ownership from 18 to 21 and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“I remind you,” she said, “this movement here is led by students – not by politicians – by students like me.”

A crowd walking through an intersection, one holding a sign

Hundreds stream through downtown LA on a day that saw March for Our Lives events across the country in response to the recent mass shooting, including one at an elementary school.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Twitch streamer Hasan Piker told the crowd that he shoots guns but doesn’t think anyone needs an AR-15. And he said he was fed up with Congress’ inaction.

Mia Tretta, 17, who survived the 2019 Saugus High School shooting, spoke about the loss of her best friend Dominic Blackwell. She said loopholes in the law allowed a minor to obtain a ready-to-use firearm and kill her friend.

“Our generation grew up watching these horrific shootings,” said Cameron Kasky, 21. “And we see the same cycle repeating itself: mass killings, particularly with an AR-15. Public outrage, thoughts and prayers, rinse and repeat.”

Kasky is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting and helped organize the first nationwide March for Our Lives protest.

But there was a sense of hopelessness in his voice — a realization that there are fewer protesters across the country than there were in 2018, and a fear that people will believe nothing will change.

Kasky said he doesn’t blame anyone; he just wants the anger to still be there, and he wants politicians to feel as uncomfortable going out in public as children go to school.

“Don’t march because you think the Senate is going to pass anything,” he said in a louder voice. “March to show them how angry we are. March to show them we won’t stop until they do what we ask.”

The US House of Representatives last week passed legislation that would implement some of the reforms protesters wanted — raising the minimum age limit for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 and banning the sale of ammo magazines with more than 15-round capacity . But the measure has little chance of passing the Senate and becoming law.

Lawmakers took the action after a House committee heard testimony from survivors of the latest shooting and their family members, including an 11-year-old girl who covered herself in a classmate’s blood to pretend dead and avoid being shot in of being shot at Uvalde primary school. The May 24 attack killed 19 children and two teachers and wounded 17.

Crowds of protesters stand and sit, one holding a handmade sign that reads,

Proponents of new gun laws continue their demonstration in the shade after marching to LA City Hall in the Saturday heat.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

March for Our Lives LA organizers said they wanted this march to be specific to the area and the gun violence witnessed here. Despite California having some of the toughest gun laws in the country, gun violence still affects more than 1,400 people each year.

That’s how many survived LA shootings in 2021 — the second straight year that gun violence has increased in the city. Last year, 400 people were killed in LA, a more than 50% increase in homicides since 2019.

Protesters shouted, “Whose streets? Our streets,” holds up signs with messages like “A well-regulated militia doesn’t kill children” and “We’re done taking bullets for Congress.”

Erin Barker, 23, said she lost a family member in a car shooting and another relative survived a mass shooting at Northern Illinois University. She’s been coming out to protest since she was 18.

“I grew up with these mass shootings and heard about them. It arrived near home when Sandy Hook happened; It hit closer to home when the shooting happened at Pulse nightclub than a gay person,” Barker said. “The problem is that you’re not listening. The problem is that people keep dying under your watch.”

Bree Pavey’s shirt commemorated the victims of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. She said she has met many survivors of the shooting since 2009 as an artist on the theater production The Columbine Project. The work made an impression on her heart, she said, and she sees Columbine as a turning point for gun violence in this country.

As the demonstration drew to a close, co-organizer Anna Pham said that while the day was a success, she worries this momentum will fizzle out if people don’t go home from the demonstration and keep reaching out to politicians .

“This situation itself is so helpless that if we stand back and just watch and just feel helpless, it’s going to make us feel even worse,” Pham said.

“But when we try to do something about it,” she said, “we direct our energy or our desperation into something that makes us feel like we’re going to do something. And sometimes we do, and in those moments when we have these wins, no matter how big or small, it’s all worth it.”

Times contributor Alex Wigglesworth and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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