Education

March For Our Lives rally draws thousands in Fresno, condemns nation's 'gun culture'

March For Our Lives rally draws thousands in Fresno, condemns nation's 'gun culture'

More than 2,000 people gathered Saturday at Fresno High School to condemn America's "gun culture." At the forefront of the protests – young high school students.
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More than 2,000 people gathered Saturday at Fresno High School to condemn America's "gun culture." At the forefront of the protests – young high school students.

More than 2,000 people gathered Saturday at Fresno High School to condemn America's "gun culture."

It was a scene similar to others across the country as millions of people took to the streets to demand stricter gun laws and better mental health resource allocation.

At the forefront of the protests – young high school students.

March for Our Lives Fresno co-organizer Joanne Park said Saturday's event was meant to encourage voters to demand that elected officials work to end gun violence.

Park, a junior at Clovis North High School, said the organization is asking that Congress join forces for "bipartisan gun reform."

The march and rally came more than a month after a mass shooting at a Florida high school killed 17 people. Park said the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, along with mass shootings in Las Vegas, San Bernardino and the Pulse Night Club, are evidence that something needs to change.

The names of the 17 victims of the Florida school shooting were read out loud before white balloon doves were released into the sky.

The March for Our Lives Fresno group then led the way out from the steps of Fresno High's Josiah Royce Hall, through a swath of people cheering them on, and onto the sidewalk to begin a march around the high school campus.

Exiting the campus to start the march was slowed by the large crowd on hand. But with signs, strollers and their dogs, the adults at the rally walked alongside the younger marchers.

Eventually, as the final marchers began their walk around the campus, the organizers were already making their way up the stairs of Royce Hall.

It was there in an earlier speech where Elizabeth Grubb, a senior at Clovis North High School, said that though her generation has grown up among gun violence and mass shootings, "we will be the generation that ends mass shootings."

Her words sparked cheers and applause from people all across the lawn. Miller told them that Saturday's events were "just the beginning" of an ongoing campaign to curb gun violence.

The focus at the event often turned to the National Rifle Association. Any mention of the pro-gun group was met with boos and hisses from the crowd. Speakers often accused congressional representatives of not advocating for gun reform because the NRA donates to their campaigns.

Andrew Janz, a Democratic challenger to Rep. Devin Nunes in the 22nd Congressional District, spoke at the event and fired up the crowd. His campaign to unseat Nunes in the 22nd congressional district has energized voters and he did so again by calling out Nunes' inaction on gun reform.

But the group that organized Saturday's events said stopping gun violence is an issue that should be bipartisan. They want politicians to work together for reasonable solutions to gun violence. Some speakers suggested solutions like raising the national minimum age to buy a weapon to 21 and installing more school counselors and resources at schools. The speakers also spoke against arming school teachers.

Several protest signs also demanded that schools provide supplies instead of weapons in the classroom. Another sign stated "guns have changed, laws must change too."

Yasmin Mendoza, a student at Clovis Community College and organizer with March for Our Lives Fresno, said the Fresno group was among the first in the country to plan such an event. Voter registration booths were also set up since many high school students will soon turn 18.

Grace Miller, 17, said that when she walked out of class at Sanger High School on March 14 to honor the 17 whose lives were lost in the Florida shooting, daycare children also came out with the older kids.

Miller was among the dozens of young people at Saturday's march who have been actively protesting mass shootings.

"It scares me," Miller said, "that in one of the most advanced and richest nations in the world it is relevant for a 4-year-old to hold up a sign that says 'keep me safe.' "

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez
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