March For Our Lives rally draws hundreds to downtown Columbia
Local high school students, college students, parents and others from the Columbia community marched from Francis Quadrangle to the Boone County Courthouse on Saturday.
Mar. 25, 2018
Hundreds gathered at the MU Francis Quadrangle columns Saturday afternoon for Columbia’s March For Our Lives event, one of hundreds happening around the world, calling upon the public to hold legislators accountable for gun laws in Missouri.
People of all ages marched from the Columns, chanting through the streets of downtown to the Boone County Courthouse. There, Rock Bridge and Battle High School students who organized the event gave speeches and testimonies alongside other speakers who were invited. Speakers included students, parents and grandparents alike.
March For Our Lives began in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, where 17 students and faculty were shot and killed by a former student. The main march took place in Washington, D.C., with sister marches in cities across the country.
Many testimonies from the high school organizers focused on holding local legislators accountable for gun laws in Missouri. Many called out senators and representatives by name.
Rock Bridge High School sophomore Rachael Erickson helped plan the event. Erickson, 15, said she has lived her entire life “in the context of regular mass murders,” participating in active-shooter drills since kindergarten.
“These drills and thoughts are omnipresent in our lives,” Erickson said. “This isn’t something that children can brush off to the side. And yet, our politicians seem to be able to. Yes, they send their thoughts and prayers, but they never think about it enough to want to make some actual change.”
MU law student Cat Cojocaru was one of the speakers at the march. She carried a sign that read “NEVER AGAIN” on one side and “Do It For Her” on the other next to pictures of a close friend who lost her life to gun violence while in college.
“Every time there’s a mass shooting, I’m brought back to that day where everything stopped,” Cojocaru said. “And as we all know, the frightening pace of these shootings in America hasn’t let up. As a student, my mind wanders when I’m in a large lecture hall, worried that my school might be next.”
Parents, grandparents and other family members were in attendance to advocate for the young people in their lives. Some adults, like Steven Mellis, a retired teacher, engineer and Columbia resident, came out to support despite having no kids of his own. Mellis was a student during the Vietnam War era. With the war protests that were common at the time and the resignation of President Richard Nixon, he said his generation thought its job was done.
“We thought we’d had it,” Mellis said. “We thought we’d done it. We didn’t. We’ve failed.”
Kanchan Hans, a Rock Bridge High School student and march organizer, pointed out the voter registration booth present at the march, encouraging all to register so they can hold local government accountable with their votes in November.
“[Politicians] are the ones that should be ensuring our safety, and they’re not doing it,” Hans said. “And if they continue to not do it after all of these marches that are happening across the country today, then we’re going to vote them out of office because that’s what we have to do to make sure that we can go to school every day feeling safe and secure.”
Edited by Skyler Rossi | firstname.lastname@example.org