Saturday's march in Seattle is one of hundreds planned alongside the main event in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, and after thousands of students walked out of class last week.
Senior Rhiannon Rasaretnam didn’t know what to expect last Wednesday morning at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, as a wave of demonstrations swept the nation in protest of gun laws the country’s young people say threaten their lives.
But then 150 of her peers left class — far more than she thought would join her.
“The biggest criticism was that it wasn’t accomplishing anything, or that kids just wanted to leave school,” said Rasaretnam, 17, of the National School Walkout demonstrations. “But when you participate, it inspires you to move forward. It shows how much we’re able to do.”
Now she’s hoping that the energy she saw at her school last week translates to Saturday’s March For Our Lives, which she and other students throughout the Seattle area have spent a month planning.
Those students have been brought together by a common goal: ending gun violence. They feel inspired by the momentum from March 17 school walkouts, and they hope it continues after the march.
A look at the #MarchForOurLives route
“We hope that this is not just one moment,” said Catherine Zhu, 18, a senior at Ingraham High School and a lead march coordinator. “We want concrete political change.”
The march in Seattle is one of hundreds planned alongside the main event in Washington, D.C., in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed at their school. The march is set to begin at Cal Anderson Park at 10 a.m. with speeches, followed by a walk at 11 a.m. to Seattle Center. A second round of speeches and performances will start at 12 p.m. at Seattle Center.
Nearly 10,000 people have replied on the event’s Facebook page that they’ll be attending. Elected officials, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are expected to speak. Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile is expected to perform on a Seattle Center stage, as will students who have been directly affected by gun violence. Commuters should expect traffic delays in downtown Seattle and organizers are encouraging participants to take public transportation. Rideshare company Lyft is offering free rides to the rally at Cal Anderson Park.
March organizers have specific demands, including raising the age allowed to buy assault weapons to 21 and banning the sale of high-capacity magazines. They want politicians to listen to them. And the politicians who don’t?
“We aren’t afraid to push them out” of office in the November election, said Ballard High School senior Emilia Allard, 17, a march organizer. The importance of voting will be a focus of Seattle’s march; volunteers will be at booths and throughout the crowd with information about how to register to vote.
“The 18-21 voter turnout is historically low,” said Rasaretnam, of Tahoma High. “We want to flip that. We want to stay engaged and active.”
Last week, Zhu joined her Ingraham classmates and students from Lakeside as they lined an Interstate 5 overpass, chanting and holding signs. Allard walked out with Ballard students and then went to a larger rally at the University of Washington. Rasaretnam gathered in her school’s commons area.
Throughout the past month, they’ve juggled school, extracurricular activities and jobs, along with planning an event for thousands of people. Earlier this week, they sat around a long table at Cupcake Royale on Capitol Hill, working on finalizing the speaker schedule and making sure all 400 volunteers are accounted for. Talks about gun laws were mixed in with stories about homework — and laughs when someone made a mess while eating her cupcake, decorated with the March For Our Lives logo.
For them, any gun legislation that comes will likely be too late for their school careers, they say.
But they’re not thinking of themselves. They’re thinking of their younger siblings, friends and classmates.
“We almost have no other choice (but to march),” said Allard, who has four younger siblings. “It literally is that — a march for our lives.”