′March for Our Lives′: Rallies around the world call for stricter US gun control | News | DW | 24.03.2018
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'March for Our Lives': Rallies around the world call for stricter US gun control

Protests calling for gun control have been held across the US, with solidarity marches also taking place around the world. The "March for Our Lives" movement began after February's school shooting in Florida.

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Hundreds of thousands decry US gun violence

Student-led protests calling for tighter controls on guns were held across the US on Saturday.

The rallies — taking place under the banner "March for Our Lives" — developed after 17 people were shot dead by a gunman at a Florida high school on February 14.

Read more: Can a group of Florida high school students change America's cycle of gun violence?

The main march got underway midday in Washington, DC, while up to 800 other rallies were planned across the US on Saturday. Several solidarity marches also took place in countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland.

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March for Our Lives - uphill battle for stricter gun laws

Organizers at the Washington rally said they hoped that it would match the numbers seen at last year's women's march, which was one of the largest protests in the US capital since the anti-Vietnam War movement. 

"If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking," David Hogg, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida, told the crowd of protesters in Washington.

Hogg, who has emerged as one of the leaders of the student movement, added: "We will get rid of these public servants who only care about the gun lobby."

The granddaughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. also made a rousing speech at the Washington rally. "My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," 9-year-old Yolanda Renee King told the roaring crowd. "I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world — period."

USA Washington March for our Lives - Jaclyn Corin and Yolanda Renee King (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Harnik)

Martin Luther King's granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, was joined on the March For Our Lives stage in Washington DC by MSD shooting survivor Jaclyn Corin

The musicians Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the hit musical "Hamilton," all performed on the stage set up in front of the US Capitol building.

In New York, tens of thousands held a moment of silence to honor the dead before Sam Hendler, a 16-year-old student from MSD, read the names of the 17 victims.

Read more: Thank you, kids, for telling us gun violence is not normal

Another MSD student, Meghan Bonner, told the rally in New York:  "There was so much more that could have been done to prevent this. I want to see change."

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Parkland shooting survivor: 'If you take money from the NRA, you have chosen death!'

More than 20,000 people filled a park near MSD, where students chanted "enough is enough" and held up signs with slogans such as "our ballots will stop bullets."

Protesters talk to DW

DW's Michael Knigge was in Washington for the rally. A 14-year-old named Christopher from Boston told him that he knew five people who had lost their lives to gun violence in the past year.

Dan, a 67-year-old from Virginia, told DW that he had protested against the Vietnam War as a young man and compared the anti-war movement of the 1960s and '70s to the struggle against gun violence today. "In Vietnam, we shot at someone else; now we are shooting each other," he said, adding that he hoped he wouldn't have to come back for another march next year.

Becky, a 26-old-year Philadelphia native who now lives in Washington, told DW: "I am an outraged citizen. I had a bullet come through my window in my apartment not long ago."

Asked what should be done about gun violence, Becky said: "We have to cut the funding to the National Rifle Association (NRA) off. I am sick and tired of the tolerance we have for guns and gun violence in this country."

Read more: 8 facts about gun control in the US

March For Our Lives in Berlin (Getty Images/A. Berry)

Thousands marched before the US embassy by the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin in solidarity with the "March For Our Lives" rallies in the US

White House lauds First Amendment rights; Trump stays quiet

The White House applauded "the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights" at Saturday's gun control rallies.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said "keeping our children safe is a top priority" of President Donald Trump's, adding that the administration was pushing Congress to pass legislation that would expand background checks and supposedly improve school safety.

Trump, meanwhile, had so far remained silent on the issue as he made his way to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the weekend.

Shortly after the MSD shooting, the president had indicated that he would be open to arming teachers as a way to combat gun violence in schools. That measure, however, has drawn a lot of rebuke.

Read more: European gun-makers flood the US with firearms

Poll: Americans want tighter gun laws

A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, published to coincide with the March For Our Lives rallies, found that 69 percent of US citizens think gun laws should be tightened.

That figure is up from 61 percent who said the same in 2016 and 55 percent when the survey was first carried out in 2013. 

Read more: Guns and Wall Street — a match made in heaven?

The poll also showed that 90 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans favor stricter gun control laws.

Voter registration activists signed up thousands of first-time voters attending the rallies with a view to ejecting lawmakers who oppose gun controls. Mid-term Congressional elections are to be held in eight months.

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US anti-gun march participant: 'The issue involves everyone'

What has been done since the Parkland shooting?

In the aftermath of the shooting, Florida passed a law raising the legal age for purchasing rifles. The NRA went on to sue the state, arguing that the measure was unconstitutional. 

Trump initially said he supported raising the minimum age for gun purchases but later backed away from the measure. The White House explained the move, saying the president wanted to focus on legislation that could get through Congress

Several major companies have cut ties with the NRA in the aftermath of the shooting, including the US airlines United and Delta and car rental firms Hertz and Enterprise. Chains such as Walmart also announced that they would impose new restrictions on gun sales. 

The NRA shot back at the companies, accusing them in a statement of displaying a "shameful display of political and civic cowardice." 

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How Germany handles guns

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dm/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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