March for Our Lives, San Francisco – March 24, 2018
“Show me what democracy looks like! This is what Democracy looks like!”
The chant rolled through the crowd as approximately 25,000 of us marched down San Francisco’s Market Street, a mix of ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and passions, all united in this moment around a common purpose. This City march joined many others throughout the nation in a display of solidarity and support through our collective action of protest against the forces that refuse to prioritize the safety and value of lives over the dubious right of gun ownership.
I joined this protest because of the outrage I feel at the national injustice we are suffering due to the overwhelming number of gun related deaths each year, and the inability of our government to take any effective action toward preventing these deaths. The statistics are beyond staggering, only eclipsed by the lack of political will and moral courage of our leaders.
Catalyzed by the student survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a growing movement has energized the call for reforms and fanned the passion of a young generation and others who will not be satisfied with the status quo. The messages on protest posters and signs, most of them handmade, reinforced the collective sentiment – Never again!; Not one more!; No more silence, end gun violence!, which became another often chanted phrase along the march.
At the pre-march rally, one of the most actionable messages was given by Briar Goldberg, a Columbine survivor, who urged us all to review our investment funds and IRAs, and divest any stocks related to the gun industry. These funds might include gun manufacturers or distributors, such as Sturm Ruger & Company (RGR), Vista Outdoor (VSTO), American Outdoor Brands (AOBC), and Olin Corporation (OLN). A divestment strategy has been a historically impactful one which contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa. More recently, we have also seen boycotting as an effective social justice tool, such as through the #GrabYourWallet movement organized by Shannon Coulter, with advertisers pulling funding from television shows which feature and support personalities who perpetuate the voices and actions of hate, and individual consumers refusing to support offending companies.
For the first time in many months, encouraged by the Parkland students and the activity of their generation, I am hopeful that positive change is coming. It may not happen in the short term, given the intransigence of the current government, but it will happen. A ‘blue wave’ which began before these particular events is continuing to swell and will grow even bigger when these impassioned youth become old enough to vote. That wave has already effected change in many special elections across the country, flipping previously Republican held legislative seats and positions of power to Democrats and progressives. I hope this indicates that the 2018 midterms may change the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republican to Democrat.
At minimum, the Parkland students and the MFOL have catalyzed the public conversation about gun control. The issues surrounding gun deaths, mass shootings, second amendment rights, and police-involved shootings, are intertwined with other social issues in our society, especially racism and white supremacy, white privilege and the suppression of people of color. That we are all growing more aware of and actively discussing these issues is necessary. That these conversations lead to effective action is essential. We must continue to work toward a safer, more just and equitable society. With our youngest generation leading the way, I have a renewed hope that we can succeed. This is what democracy looks like.