Thousands of individuals gathered at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 24 in the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland to march against gun violence and to support student activism following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 people February 2018.
The March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. drew a crowd of 200,000 people. On Facebook, around four thousand people expressed interest in attending Portland’s March for Our Lives event, but KATU News reported about 12,000 attendees. Participants began assembling as early as 8:30 a.m.
“The fact that thousands and thousands of people are gathered here today to demand change is incredible,” said high school senior Callum Nguyen. “However it is a shame that we still have to protest for our safety. It is a shame that we still have to fight to be safe in school, a place that we are federally required to be.”
“This is not only about fixing the continued tragedy of school shootings but all gun violence,” said Portland State student Alyssa Diaz. “We are fed up.”
Protesters marched to Pioneer Courthouse Square, where local college, high school and middle school students shared their fears and demands via short speeches and poetry. Many participants expressed strong sentiments against the National Rifle Association, along with support of gun control and assault weapons bans.
“I am here to demand a ban on weapons of war,” Nguyen added. “These weapons of war have had more importance in our society than the lives of our children. I am here to demand stricter regulations to acquire guns that includes intensive background checks, a mental health examination and proper firearm training.”
Grammy-winning pop band Portugal. The Man followed the speeches with a short concert. While the march only covered six blocks, it took about 90 minutes for the entire march to gather in the square.
Student speakers also called for attendees to register to vote in order to hold elected officials accountable through their ballots. Volunteers spread throughout the march with paper registration forms. According to NBC News, thousands of attendees across the country registered to vote at the marches.
“I am ready to vote. I am ready to lobby our politicians. I am ready to work on campaigns, and I might be ready to run my own,” high school senior Alexandria Goddard said. “From now on we will hold policy makers accountable for every death. For too long they have hidden behind false interpretations of second amendment rights.”
As a response to recent school shootings, an interfaith religious group in Portland has petitioned for a proposed ban on all assault weapons, which it defines as any semi-automatic rifle that accepts more than ten rounds of ammunition, a detachable magazine or a folding telescoping stock, among other features. Initiative Petition 43 also calls for Oregon gun owners to surrender or register assault weapons or face felony charges.
Members of the alt-right group Patriot Prayer held a small counter protest at the march. The group carried pro-NRA and anti-women’s rights signs.
Additional reporting by Brian McGloin