WASHINGTON • Thousands of people, outraged by a recent massacre at a South Florida school and energised by the students who survived, spilled out in public protest in Washington and communities across the world yesterday as they demanded an end to gun violence.
The student activists, sharp-tongued and defiant in the face of politicians and gun lobbyists, have kept attention on the issue in a time of renewed political activism on the left, as they helped lead a school walkout across the United States and pushed state officials in Florida to enact gun legislation.
The effectiveness of the students' efforts would be measured, in part, on the success of yesterday's events - their most ambitious show of force yet. More than 800 protests were planned in every US state and on every continent except for Antarctica, according to a website set up by organisers.
More than half a million people were expected to demonstrate in Washington, where the main event, called March for Our Lives, kicked off around midday.
Because the march could draw hundreds of thousands of students, many of them also under 18, officials said they had taken extra care to ensure the safety of protesters. Counter-protests in support of gun rights appeared to be planned in various cities including Salt Lake City, Utah; Greenville, South Carolina; and Helena, Montana.
Musical performances by Ariana Grande, Common, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson and Broadway performers Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt were projected onto 20 giant video screens along the protest route in Washington. In between, rally-goers heard from about 20 speakers - all of them under 18.
The event was a show of strength for a group that will soon have access to the ballot box - something the marchers emphasised.
"What we're doing is because we're not scared of these adults," said Ms Jaclyn Corin, 17, a lead organiser, "because we have nothing to lose, we don't have an election to lose, we don't have a job to lose - we just have our lives to lose."
The student activists also hope to elevate gun control as a key issue in the coming mid-term elections, and to build support for candidates with whom they are aligned on issues such as universal background checks on gun buyers and bans on assault-style weapons.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST