In the wake of last month’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., student leaders across campus organized the March for SC rally Thursday to protest gun violence in America.
According to one of the event’s founders, sophomore Shir Attias, the event was inspired by actions nationwide after the Parkland shooting that led to the #NeverAgain movement calling for gun control legislation. The purpose of these events are to raise awareness and start a dialogue concerning school shootings across the nation. The rally was held at the Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, and drew an estimated 40 attendees. While it was originally planned to be held at the Tommy Trojan statue, the rally’s location was changed due to inclement weather.
The March for SC is co-sponsored by various student organizations, including Undergraduate Student Government assemblies and campus political advocacy groups. The idea for the campaign was developed by sophomores Alec Vandenberg, a Daily Trojan columnist, CJ Wechsler, Michaela Murphy, Attias and junior Mai Mizuno. Over the past month, the group created a social media campaign, held the student campus rally, and is organizing resources for students to participate in the March for Our Lives in Los Angeles, which takes place Saturday.
“We wanted to make this a unified effort,” Vandenberg said. “We really wanted to make sure we did a lot of outreach because not only are all students affected by gun violence, everyone can be a part of the dialogue and everyone can be a part of the solution.”
The social media campaign, which started on March 14, was created to spread awareness and demonstrate support for the March for Our Lives movement, where supporters added a March for SC frame to their social media profile pictures.
Thursday’s rally included a vigil for the 17 Parkland victims who died in the shooting, and provided a space for students and other advocates to voice their concerns about gun violence.
During the rally, Attias, Vandenberg and Wechsler called students to join together as a united front to make a difference and for USC to join the national conversation concerning student safety and prevention of violence in and out of the classroom.
“I know that all three of us have had individuals reaching out to us and what this is doing is bringing this into a collective solidarity,” Wechsler said during the rally. “Because we cannot stand alone and be effective. What is effective is having us all standing together and uplifting our own voices.”
The rally featured representatives from political organizations calling for increased gun safety measures. Along with members of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board, the LA Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action, Paul Wilson, the husband of one of eight people killed at a shooting in Seal Beach, Calif., in 2011 and advocate for common sense gun legislation, spoke to students as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Our kids have grown up in this environment and they finally have a voice to say enough is enough,” Wilson said. “Enough of our thoughts and prayers. We demand action and we demand action now. I am proud to be standing with them and marching with them.”
In addition to local community members, two students shared their experiences with school shootings. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumnus Gabe Lam, a senior majoring in business administration and accounting, spoke about his connection to Parkland and his fear for his brother’s safety when he first heard of the shooting. Lam’s brother is a current student at the high school, and was not harmed in the shooting.
Tess Murray, a senior studying international relations and global business, grew up in Newtown, Conn., and was a neighbor of the gunman in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. She shared how she foresees a cultural change for future political reform concerning current gun policy.
“America is ready for change as long as our generation stays active, stays angry, and demands action, it will happen,” Murray said. “Our generation, frequently referred to as the mass shooting generation, is driving a cultural change that will make America safer.”
March for SC encourages students to continue protesting gun violence by promoting the March for Our Lives at Pershing Square on Saturday, and is organizing transportation for students to get to the event.
“This entire movement is to show the generations before us that students are stakeholders in these issues,” Wechsler said. “Oftentimes children and young adults are disregarded when it comes to policy because they may not be informed enough or may not really understand the scope of the issue, but this is something that is directly affecting students and by uniting all these voices and standing in solidarity.”