Gun Control Marchers Make Strong Statement


guns march for lives march 24 2018 digital globe

Aerial photo by Digital Globe showing at center about half of the gun control protesters from Third to Sixth Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, DC, with the main sound stage shown as a white rectangle on the Avenue at photo's bottom center near Third Street.

Led by schoolmates of shooting victims, hundreds of thousands of gun protesters packed Pennsylvania Avenue facing the Capitol Building in downtown Washington, DC March 24 during the March for Our Lives, a powerful, well-planned and otherwise impressive challenge to the nation’s political establishment.

Extensive news coverage (excerpted in an appendix below) showed how huge attendance, enthusiasm and eloquent speakers created strong momentum for gun control and other political activism.

This commentator will leave those overviews to others, aside from the excerpts below.

My focus will be to draw on experience organizing many annual trade association conventions and other events, including some in the nation’s capital, to focus more narrowly on the exceptional logistics that contributed to the march’s success.

guns ak djt sign 3 24 18 cropped IMG 4478 Custom 3I observed a number of these factors also as a participant. My office at Seventh and Pennsylvania Avenue NW was almost at the center of the parade route. I had planned merely sample the street scene, much like almost innumerable other parades and protests on that route (including the presidential Inaugural every four years).

But by the end, I found myself inspired to retrieve a discarded sign from a sidewalk near the Trump International Hotel at 11th Street and talk to passersby for more than two hours about the relevant issues, as indicated at right.

The sign that I was holding at left says "When the kids act like leaders and the leaders act like kids, you know change is coming."

Most striking on the scene was the eloquence of the event speakers and the enthusiasm of the large crowd. Not every advocate in life is going to be a strong public speaker. But these young speakers were either exceptionally inspired to rise to the occasion or somehow vetted in advance by the organizers.

Even more remarkable for a civic gathering, the talks were brief and the overall program actually ended about five minutes earlier than the scheduled end at 3 p.m. (following a noon start). 

gun march view from nine street win mcnamee getty images 937402732 Custom

A view of the protest looking West on Pennsylvania Avenue with Ninth Street in the foreground shows a crowd segment entirely different from the aerial photograph above. This photo also shows the U.S. Justice Department headquarters at left and the Trump International Hotel's tower at right. (Photo by Win McNamee via Getty Images No.: 937402732.)

An event of this magnitude requires expert planning on logistics, which seemed to proceed smoothly.

The most important and most difficult component is largely unseen, except at the end: this is to persuadie and enable crowds and celebrities to attend. It’s far from easy, particularly because cost is always a factor, especially for young people. More on that below.

Regarding visible success points: Huge (and expensive) video screens every few blocks along Pennsylvania kept the stage visible to the crowds, who did not so much march as watch.

Arrayed along the route also were vast numbers of volunteer parade monitors, merchandise vendors and portable toilets, along with water and medical stations.

Portable concrete barriers marked the appointed protest areas, which did not include the Washington Mall because another (and much smaller) group had previously secured the appropriate permit. Hundreds of police officers were on hand to keep order, which was not difficult because the crowd’s passions were focused on civic betterment and such far-away targets as school shooters, the National Rifle Association and politicians (none present) who take NRA money.

Teenagers were the visible face of the protests but had considerable help from teachers, parents, benefactors and other adults. As reported today by New York Times reporters Alan Blinder, Jess Bidgood and Vivian Wang in Marches Were Mix of Youthful Energy and Influential Adults:

Skeptics of the marches seized on the roles of major interest groups, suggesting that the students were unwitting participants in political warfare that should be reserved for adults. But organizers and supporters of Saturday’s events have done little to disguise that millions of dollars and thousands of hours were directed toward the weekend’s protests.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which was founded and financed by Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York mayor, proudly declared that it had doled out more than $1 million in grants to local organizers. A nonprofit led by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, arranged for more than 200 people from the Parkland area to attend Saturday’s march in Washington, and said it had worked with the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, to use the N.F.L. franchise’s plane to bring some people to the capital.

Crowd size is a logistical matter that is deliberately obscure because of its political implications. Since 1996 the U.S. Park Service has refused to make crowd size estimates for parades and protests following a controversy over the size of the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s so-called “Million Man March,” as described in a 2017 overview on The Facts On Crowd Size.

The lack of an official estimate prompts reporters and advocates to use proxy measurements. These include aerial photographs (many of them, however, focused on the Mall, not nearby streets) and passenger volume of the local subway and bus system (WMATA, or “Metro.”)

Readers can take a stab at estimating the size of the crowd by eyeballing the array of aerial and street level photos illustrating this column. The aerial photo, however, shows less than half the locale, from Third to Sixth Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Other shots show the junction of 10th Street (with the Justice Department headquarters at top and the Trump International Hotel to its right).

In headline a story March for Our Lives crowd tops Trump inauguration, according to organizer estimates, the liberal commentary site Think Progress cited  claims that about say about 800,000 people attended – a number that “would still be considerably short of the number that were tallied at President Barack Obama’s first inaugural, or the first Women’s March [in January 2017]).

For the full day, the Trump inauguration attracted 570,557 Metro riders. For the sake of additional context, the Washington Post’s Luz Lazo notes that WMATA ridership spiked above one million riders on two days since the transit authority began keeping such statistics — the day of Obama’s inauguration (1,120,000 riders) and the first Women’s March (1,001,613).

Metrorail ridership for March 24, 2018: 558,735 — compared to the above-mentioned 570,557 for the Trump Inaugural, which had a budget of well over $100 million.

A wild card in these comparisons is that there were virtually no significant visible counter-protests to the March for Our Lives. One widely publicized such protest was located by the Spy Museum at F and Ninth Streets, but counter-protesters had abandoned the site before the gun protest was even half over.

By contrast, thousands of counter-protesters bolstered the overall attendance of the Trump Inauguration.

Whatever the precise comparison of numbers that are nearly impossible to calculate, the larger point is that a next generation made its voices and views heard in impressive fashion.

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Related News Coverage

Washington Post video highlights

ny times logoNew York Times, Students Lead Huge Rallies for Gun Control Across U.S. Staff reports, March 25, 2018 (print edition). Hundreds of thousands of protesters, outraged by a recent school shooting and energized by the student survivors, gathered in Washington to call for an end to gun violence. More than 800 protests are planned in every American state and on every continent except for Antarctica. Follow our live coverage.

Demonstrators are flooding streets across the globe in public protests on Saturday, demanding action against gun violence. Hundreds of thousands of marchers have turned out, in the most ambitious show of force yet from a student-driven movement that emerged after the recent massacre at a South Florida high school.

At the main event in Washington, survivors of mass shootings, including the one in Florida, rallied a whooping crowd — “Welcome to the revolution,” said one of the student organizers — and spoke of communities that are disproportionately affected by gun violence. “It is normal to see flowers honoring the lives of black and brown youth that have lost their lives to a bullet,” Edna Chavez, 17, said of her South Los Angeles neighborhood.

In New York, marchers bundled in bright orange — the official color of a gun control advocacy group — charged toward Central Park. And in Parkland, Fla., less than a mile from where the shooting took place last month, one protester’s eyes brimmed with tears, surrounded by the echoing chant, “Enough is enough!”

Counterprotesters supporting gun rights also marched in different cities. In Salt Lake City, demonstrators carried pistols and flags. One of their signs read: “What can we do to stop mass shootings? SHOOT BACK.” In Boston, opposing groups of protesters shouted at one another before the police intervened.

The student organizers want action in a midterm year. The student activists emphasized that they would soon have access to the ballot box as they hope to build support for candidates who support universal background checks and bans on assault-style weapons.

At street intersections in Washington on Saturday, voter registration volunteers waved clipboards over their heads, shouting, “It takes less than three minutes!” They wore neon yellow shirts that read, “Register to vote!”

“These Parkland students have already been able to make change that no one else could for decades,” said Carol Williams, a volunteer from West Chester, Pa.

nra logo CustomIn Parkland on Saturday, Sari Kaufman, a Stoneman Douglas sophomore, urged people to “turn this moment into a movement” that would push out of office any politician who took money from the National Rifle Association. “They think we’re all talk and no action,” she said to loud applause and cheers, and urged the crowd to prove politicians wrong by voting in huge numbers. “Remember that policy change is not nearly as difficult as losing a loved one,” she said. “Don’t just go out and vote: Get 17 other people to go out and vote.”

The crowd was particularly rousing in its appreciation of Casey Sherman, 17, a Douglas student and one of the Parkland rally organizers. “My love for Parkland had taken on a whole new meaning,” she said. “After all this heartbreak, we have come back stronger than ever. Those 17 people did not die in vain. We will stop at nothing until we make real, lasting change.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Marches Were Mix of Youthful Energy and Influential Adults, Alan Blinder, Jess Bidgood and Vivian Wang, March 25, 2018. The rallies were triumphs of organic, youthful grass-roots energy, and of sophisticated, experienced organizational muscle. They were rallies that would not have happened without the fervor of the students: teenage survivors of last month’s massacre in Parkland, Fla., frightened high schoolers in the Midwest, unnerved university students in the Northeast.

But the March for Our Lives demonstrations that unfolded on Saturday, from Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to the streets of Salt Lake City to a small town in north Georgia, ultimately represented twin triumphs: of organic, youthful grass-roots energy, and of sophisticated, experienced organizational muscle.

Although the events, which together drew hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across the country, were inspired and often led by students, many protests simultaneously benefited from groups with more financial resources and organizational skills than the teenagers had on their own.

“We definitely teamed up,” said Madison Knoop, 18, who organized a rally of 2,500 in Montpelier, Vt., with the support of groups dominated by adults. “They were so helpful for the entire process.”

In Washington, volunteers staffed medical tents, the restaurateur José Andrés used one of his kitchens to prepare thousands of ham-and-cheese sandwiches, and a popular chain handed out personal-size pizzas to children.

“Our mission was to give them the biggest megaphone possible,” Shannon Watts, the founder of an Everytown-affiliated group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said on Sunday. “I think what yesterday showed was every generation wants to get involved in this effort, and they want to get off the sidelines.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Stories from the crowd: Student marchers on why they came to D.C., Katie Mettler, Nick Kirkpatrick, Zhiyan Zhong, March 25, 2018. The march featured survivors from the Parkland, Fla., massacre and alumni from Sandy Hook. But all throughout the crowd, young people from the mass-shooting generation had their own stories to tell on the way gun violence had touched their lives at work, home and school.

ny times logoNew York Times, Protests Put G.O.P. on Defensive Ahead of Midterms, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, March 25, 2018. The passionate March for Our Lives demonstrations signaled that gun violence is not going away as an issue in the 2018 midterm elections. But the debate could play out very differently in House and Senate races.

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, Fiery Speech, and Charged Silence, From a Parkland Student, Louis Luceero II, March 25, 2018 (print edition). Emma González, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., used her speech at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington to remember classmates who had been killed,

Emma González spoke for just under two minutes on Saturday before tens of thousands of demonstrators at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, describing the effects of gun violence in emotional detail and reciting the names of classmates who had been killed.

Then she said nothing for four minutes and 26 seconds. Ms. González, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has emerged as one of the most prominent faces among the student activists who have mobilized against gun violence after a shooting at their school last month that left 17 dead.

Their facility with social media has added urgency to demands for more gun control. Ms. González, who has more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter, has spent much of the last month urging her audience to turn out for Saturday’s marches.


March 24

Roll Call, A Universal Message at ‘March for Our Lives’ — Vote This November, Griffin Connolly, March 24, 2018. As hundreds of thousands of people from all over the United States flocked to the “March For Our Lives” rally in Washington on Saturday, the message was clear: Hit the polls this November.

republican elephant logo“Vote them out! Vote them out!” the crowd of roughly half a million people chanted throughout the afternoon, referring to members of Congress who have resisted calls to enact sweeping gun control legislation.

Pennsylvania Avenue was packed with people as early as 10:30 a.m. and as late as 3 p.m. A group of a few dozen high schoolers dangled their legs from a limestone ledge on the eastern facade of the National Archives Building. Toddlers mounted the stone horses outside the Federal Trade Commission. When the original route from Twelfth St. to Third St. filled up, the crowd spilled south toward the National Mall into the numbered streets intersecting Pennsylvania Avenue.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, worked with the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety for over a month to organize the march and more than 800 sibling marches across the country Saturday.

A gunman entered the Parkland high school and killed 17 people with an AR-15 on Feb. 14. The survivors of the shooting took to social media to build up a groundswell of pro-gun control sentiment across the country.

Millions of nationwide demonstrators voiced their opposition to gun violence across the nation Saturday. Marchers wielded signs decrying the National Rifle Association — which spends millions of dollars per election cycle on pro-gun candidates — and the (mostly) Republican candidates backed by the group. “The only thing easier to buy than a gun,” one sign read, “is a GOP candidate.”

Think Progress, March for Our Lives crowd tops Trump inauguration, according to organizer estimates, Jason Linkins, March 24, 2018. Officials associated with the march say about 800,000 people attended.

Ahead of Saturday’s March For Our Lives, officials associated with the event were bullish on their crowd expectations, anticipating that as many as a half a million demonstrators were poised to descend on the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. Shortly after one o’clock on the day of the rally, as the bulk of the attendees had settled in to listen to the speakers and musical guests on the main stage, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) felt confident enough about the size of the crowd to take a salty swipe at President Donald Trump.

“I can tell you for sure, it’s larger than the Trump inauguration,” Van Hollen told The Hill, picking at the oldest sore spot of the Trump presidency — the crowd size at his inaugural celebration. Famously smaller than that of his predecessor, President Trump’s sensitivity to comparison spurred former White House press secretary Sean Spicer into his first controversy, hours into his tenure — a moment he now regrets.

A few hours after the March For Our Lives concluded, organizers laid down their marker with reporters, setting their figure at 800,000 attendees.

Should those numbers bear out, Van Hollen’s enthusiasm would be validated: a crowd that size would push past most estimations of the Trump inaugural, though it would still be considerably short of the number that were tallied at President Barack Obama’s first inaugural, or the first Women’s March.

For the full day, the Trump inauguration attracted 570,557 Metro riders. For the sake of additional context, the Washington Post’s Luz Lazo notes that WMATA ridership spiked above one million riders on two days since the transit authority began keeping such statistics — the day of Obama’s inauguration (1,120,000 riders) and the first Women’s March (1,001,613). Of the top ten ridership days in the history of the system, those are the only occasions where either an inauguration or a demonstration make the list — though the January 19, 2009 “leadup to Obama inauguration” did earn seventh-place on the top ten list. Metrorail ridership for March 24, 2018: 558,735

washington post logoWashington Post, March for Our Lives: The nation’s capital has been preparing for weeks. Today, the voices rise, Peter Jamison, Rachel Chason and Marissa J. Lang​, March 24, 2018. A huge crowd is expected for what is billed as a youth-led movement spearheaded by student survivors of school shootings. Many D.C.-area families, businesses and organizations are lending their support, and “sibling marches” are planned nationwide.

Today’s demonstration in Washington — with hundreds of thousands expected to attend — was organized by students who survived a mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Sister protests are planned in cities across the United States, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Parkland.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sister marches, counterprotests planned across U.S., world, Katie Zezima​, March 24, 2018. More than 800 events are scheduled worldwide, according to the gun control group Everytown. The largest marches are expected in U.S. cities. A demonstration is planned in Parkland, Fla.

washington post logonra logo CustomWashington Post, NRA host taunts Parkland students: ‘No one would know your names’ if not for tragedy, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., March 24, 2018. “The media would have completely and utterly ignored your story,” Colion Noir of NRATV said, claiming the teens are promoting the stripping of Second Amendment rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Opponents of gun reforms say nothing can be done. Science says they’re wrong, Robert Gebelhoff, March 24, 2018. My daughter died in Parkland. I must be her voice. Millennials are allergic to politics. But they could change anything.


washington post logoWashington Post, You’re a mother’: Laura Ingraham faces boycott for taunting Parkland teen over college rejections, Amy B Wang and Allyson Chiu, laura ingraham gage skidmore CustomMarch 29, 2018. Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg is calling for advertisers to boycott Laura Ingraham’s show after the Fox News host taunted the high school senior over his college rejections.

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it,” Ingraham tweeted Wednesday morning. She linked to a story from a conservative news site that described Hogg as a “Gun Rights Provocateur” who had not gained acceptance to four University of California schools. “Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA … totally predictable given acceptance rates,” added Ingraham (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait).

fox news logo SmallIngraham faced immediate backlash over her tweet from those shocked she would attack a 17-year-old student who had survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. Among the outraged were people who reminded Ingraham, simply, that she was a mother, and Hogg’s 14-year-old sister, who accused the Fox News host of stooping to a “real low” to boost her ratings.

David Hogg
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Pick a number 1-12 contact the company next to that #

Top Laura Ingraham Advertisers
1. @sleepnumber
2. @ATT
3. Nutrish
4. @Allstate & @esurance
5. @Bayer
6. @RocketMortgage Mortgage
7. @LibertyMutual
8. @Arbys
9. @TripAdvisor
10. @Nestle
11. @hulu
12. @Wayfair

Politico, Companies pull ads from Fox’s Ingraham after her jab at Parkland student, Cristiano Lima, March 29, 2018. A growing number of companies will heed calls from a survivor of the Florida high school shooting to drop their advertisements on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program after the host mocked the student on Twitter.

At least six said they would cease buying ads on the show. Nutrish, celebrity cook Rachael Ray’s dog food company, announced on Thursday that it was “in the process of removing ads from Laura Ingraham’s program.” TripAdvisor, the American travel website, told POLITICO that it had “made a decision to stop advertising on that program.”

Ingraham on Thursday issued an apology via Twitter for the remarks. “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA — including David Hogg,” she said. “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland.” Ingraham added that Hogg was “welcome to come on my show anytime for a productive discussion.”

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fox News host Ingraham’s rapid apology shows the power of Parkland survivors, Amy B Wang, Allyson Chiu and Tracy Jan, March 30, 2018 (print edition). Several companies said they would pull their advertising from Laura Ingraham’s show after the host taunted Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior David Hogg about his college applications being rejected.

Related Follow-ups

ny times logojohn paul stevens scotus photo portraitNew York Times, Opinion: John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment, John Paul Stevens, March 27, 2018. John Paul Stevens (shown at right in a court photo) is a retired associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. This weekend’s marches make it clear: To enact real gun control, we need to change the Constitution. Rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday. These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.

That support is a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more comprehensive background checks on all purchasers of firearms. But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.