Over 3,000 local students, teachers, parents and grandparents took to the streets of downtown Naples as part of the March for Our Lives protest, a national movement advocating for stricter gun control laws.
People around the country—and the world—took part in similar marches to express their solidarity with the young activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Last month, a lone gunman wielding an AR-15-style rifle attacked the high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people.
Local protestors carried placards reflecting their personal feelings and frustrations regarding the lack of governmental action on gun control in America. One poster read, “Grandma against gun violence.” Another, held by a local student, said, “Schools are for learning not lockdowns.”
Many signs expressed displeasure for the National Rifle Association (N.R.A) and the politicians who receive funding from the organization.
A mass of protestors wearing orange shirts flooded Cambier Park and downtown Naples. Orange was the official color of the event. The student-led march was so large, the line of participants waiting to walk looped all the way down 8th Street South.
Following the demonstration, the crowd gathered to listen to local student activists and Democratic political hopefuls. There was a special ceremony and a moment of silence for the 17 victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Mike Kinghorn, former Stoneman Douglas principal was also present.
Emma Avros, a senior at Barron Collier High School said in her opening remarks, “I never wanted to be a hashtag or an activist. I only ever wanted to be safe.”
Avros says she remembers the day that the Sandy Hook shooting took place. She was in her seventh grade science lab and noticed her teacher crying at the computer. It was her first inclination that she lived in a time where school safety was not a guarantee.
“I was born the year after Columbine,” Avros said. “I was born into the era of mass shootings.”
Daniel Mejia a 17-year-old senior at Palmetto Ridge High School echoed a similar sentiment.
“We have become numb to these school shootings,” he said. “We have become numb to these mass shootings. We have become numb to our students, our children being slaughtered.”
The multi-generational march allowed older participants to interact with a younger population. Having fought their own battles decades ago, the older protestors provided their support, allowing the high school students to take the lead.
While the March for Our Lives event was born out of the tenacity of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School activists, Mejia reminded the crowd in his closing remarks that mass shootings are not specific to public schools. They happen at concerts, nightclubs, malls, movie theaters, and in other public spaces.
“Let’s remember that mass shootings don’t just take place in schools,” he said. “It happens in every single place. Everywhere we go in life there can be a mass shooting.”