I did. Did you?
I took my hand-made signs to Washington, DC and stood frozen in time and space for about 4 hours to show solidarity with the survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, and to protest the lack of any meaningful action to reduce the never-ending gun violence in this country. It was the least I could do.
There are lots of nay-sayers out there who insist the crowd was not that large; that it was organized and paid for by crass adults who are manipulating innocent children for their own political ends; that there were not even that many kids there; that people only showed up for a “free concert” by big-name entertainers; or that people weren’t even there to protest gun violence, they were there supporting other things, like Planned Parenthood, or to just protest the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Where I stood, at the corner of 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, I was surrounded by people of all ages, and yes, many of them were teenagers. Many of them were accompanied by at least one parent. One young Vietnamese couple asked if their little kids could have their picture taken with me and my signs. On the way to my final standing spot, I posed with another former soldier whose sign said, “Vietnam Vet Proud to Stand with the Youth of America.” This was not my first demonstration, and probably won’t be the last, but it was certainly the most meaningful. I have never seen so many people gathered in “one” place – considering that “place” was eleven blocks long (about a mile and a half, it being an avenue) and was packed from sidewalk to sidewalk, including many of the side streets. There were no vast vacant spots as we saw on January 20th 2017.
To me, the music was a distraction, the real stars were the survivors and they were very well spoken. When Emma Gonzalez began her 6 minute and 20 second silence, none of us had any idea how long this was going to go on. For virtually that entire time, you could have almost heard a pin drop among the hundreds of thousands of people packed into Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a very moving moment in history.
Of course, it took almost no time at all for the NRA and its ilk to come out of the woodwork denouncing the march as being a plot by liberal billionaires and Hollywood elites; that these survivors were “crisis actors,” paid by unknown persons for their performances; one photo shopped Facebook post purported to show Gonzalez tearing up the Constitution. What hogwash. Everywhere around me, for as far as I could see, regular Americans were standing up to gun violence and making their voices heard. Many, many times over the course of the speeches, spontaneous chants would break out among the crowd. The most common one was “vote them out, vote them out,” referring to the august members of the United States Congress, those at least, who are bought and paid for by Wayne LaPierre, the Koch Brothers, and many other shadowy individuals and corporations that were unleashed by Citizens United.
What can we do to stop the killings on our streets, in our schools and churches, on our playgrounds, in our nightclubs, and in our homes? When will we stop believing the liars in the Fairfax home of the NRA and demand take action in the Congress, in the Virginia General, and right here in Culpeper County to stop these atrocities?. We could be next. Speak out.
Editors Note: This originally appeared in the March 30th edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent, and can be found here, and has been reposted with the author’s permission.