Some thousand people — mostly in high school — descended upon Brown’s Island and walked to the Capitol last Friday to show their support for increased gun control measures.
The event was coordinated by Douglas S. Freeman High School senior Maxwell Nardi, who is also the leader of NeverAgain Virginia, an organization fighting for gun legislation to address school shootings and other forms of gun violence.
Many who attended the event participated in the nationwide walkout earlier in the day honoring the lives lost in Columbine.
Three of the students who participated in the walk-out — Freeman sophomores Nalani Stephenson, Jaela Jackson, and Keyana Hanley — said the movement for gun safety is far from complete.
“I wanted change,” Jackson said. “I got tired of waiting around and waiting for other people to do something that I feel passionate about, and I’m tired of being scared in school.”
Other students in attendance, Cole Taylor and Kennedy Daniels — juniors from Henrico High School and Glen Allen High School respectively — said they believe not enough is being done to resolve the issue of gun violence.
“My school has had recent gun threats and I really think that it shouldn’t even be a fear, so we need to do something to make sure crazy people can’t get guns,” Daniels said.
Before the march to Virginia’s State Capitol began, speakers were welcomed at Brown’s Island. TaQuan Grant, a senior and student government vice president at Thomas Jefferson High School, said the event not only highlights the importance of gun legislation to prevent school shootings, but also in preventing forms of gun violence in general.
“As a product of Richmond Public Schools and as a product of Section 8 housing and as a product of the projects, I see gun violence with my own naked eye,” Grant said. “It’s time for us people all over the Commonwealth of Virginia to rise to the occasion, to stand for justice. Make your voice matter.”
Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin (D-4) called the student-run protests for gun control exciting.
“The Civil Rights Movements have always been lead by the young people, and so it’s exciting to see this generation step up and lead this Civil Rights Movement because believe me when I tell you that gun safety is a Civil Rights Movement,” McEachin said. “A lot of these young people are my constituents, and so I want to show them that their congressman is with them.”
At the Capitol, another round of speakers ranging from high school students to elected officials spoke, including Gov. Ralph Northam. Northam reaffirmed his stance that gun violence is an issue that needs to be handled quickly.
“How many more dates will we add to the calendar before we take the actions we need to take to keep our schools, churches, theaters and concert venues safe?” Northam said. “How many lives will we lose to preventable gun violence before we take action to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them?”
Attorney General Mark Herring and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax doubled down on Northam’s statements and called for gun control legislation by local, state and national legislatures.
“Can we honestly say we are doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again? No,” Herring said. “How many more tragedies must we endure before we actually do something?”
Fairfax said the young people who are making these protests happen are going to make a change.
“We are so inspired by your example, by your courage, by your willingness to stand up and fight,” Fairfax said. “I promise you, this group is going to change the world.”
Logan Reardon, Contributing Writer