Monday 23 July 2018

Stars join gun control protesters at Los Angeles march

Willow Smith said she was ‘so proud’ to support the organisers’ efforts to make a safer nation.

John Collins, 19, a University of Cincinnati student, cheers during the March For Our Lives protest (John Minchillo/AP)
John Collins, 19, a University of Cincinnati student, cheers during the March For Our Lives protest (John Minchillo/AP)

By Sam Blewett, Press Association Los Angeles Correspondent

Stars have joined survivors to call for tighter gun control laws as thousands across the US protested against mass shootings in the student-led March For Our Lives.

The main rally organised in the wake of the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was held in Washington DC on Saturday.

But they were joined by sibling marches across the States and the world, including in Los Angeles where stars and survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, spoke in support of the mass movement taking on opponents of tighter laws such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Carrying placards reading “Bullets are not school supplies”, “My congressman takes NRA blood money” and “Protect kids not guns”, thousands of marchers descended on Downtown LA.

Actress Amy Schumer told them she was risking having “literal targets on our backs” by speaking out in the fight for the “fallen angels” and the children living in fear of guns.

“We stand together for your senselessly slain classmates and friends and say this has to stop,” she told the crowd.

“It’s these moments that define us. What we do in the struggle, what we do when things are hard and messy and involve doing what’s right and not what is wrong, clearly wrong, like taking money from the NRA to uphold these laws outdated by hundreds of years.

“They allow for repeated killings of students.”

Willow Smith said she was “so proud” to support the organisers’ efforts to make a safer nation.

Actress and model Yara Shahidi added: “People, especially the people in our government, have to accept and embrace that we have a right to safety.”

Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman shooting, Mia Freeman and Hayley Licata, received a huge applause from the audience.

Mia said: “No one should ever have to experience the pain we are all feeling right now.

“We should be going to school to get an education and a future, not wondering if we are ever going to see that future.”

Hayley hit out at US President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers.

“The answer to gun violence is not more guns,” she said.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti compared the moment to the civil rights movement, adding: “It’s time to protect kids and not protect guns.”

Action since the 17 students and staff members killed in the attack has so far seen tens of thousands stage school walkouts and has thrust the gun debate into the national consciousness.

They have directed much criticism at the NRA and have called for measures including tighter background checks and a ban on assault weapons such as the one used in the latest massacre.

The outcry so far has seen some success, with Florida passing its first new gun controls in more than 20 years and the US Congress issuing funding to improve school safety and compliance with criminal background checks for firearm purchases.

But, the protesters are keen to reiterate, there is still much to be done before students feel safe in the nation where school shootings are a regular occurrence.

“Every kid in this country now goes to school wondering if this day might be their last. We live in fear,” the March For Our Lives mission statement says.

Protesters also rallied in the UK, with relatives of the victims of the Dunblane massacre joining a march in Edinburgh and hundreds descending on the US embassy in London.

Press Association

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