On the morning of March 21, thousands gathered at Austin City Hall for the March For Our Lives. It was hot, muggy, and rather uncomfortable for anyone like me who was wearing more than shorts and a t-shirt. The buses were far more crowded than I have ever seen them be on a Saturday morning. Outside of city hall stood a very diverse crowd of individuals, seemingly representing every age, race, and gender. My friend and I joined them just half an hour before the march towards the state Capitol building, and I was using any piece of paper to fan myself in a feeble attempt to cool off.
But the uncomfortable weather did nothing to stop the feeling of comradery that I felt with everyone who was there. I noticed an older woman in front of us holding a sign that said “This Grandma Stands for Gun Control.” We quickly struck up a conversation, and though we didn’t know one another, it didn’t feel like we had to. Ultimately, our shared frustrations made us seem like old friends.
This was the tone that seemed to encompass the entire crowd. Everyone was smiling, chatting with one another, and complimenting each other’s signs. Most people had their phones out, trying to take pictures that would make it clear how powerful the gathering was. I tried this myself and was only able to capture a fraction of the tremendous crowd surrounding me.
I took the time to look at other signs around me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. There were memes, statements of frustration towards politicians and the NRA, and calls to action for gun control. Just by looking at most of them, you could tell why everyone was there. They were parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, and students. But most importantly, they were all human beings who value life and are fighting for a safer America.
There was a unity that grew stronger as we walked the mile-long stretch of road from city hall to the Capitol building. People cheering along the sides of the street, starting chants such as “No More Silence, End Gun Violence.” Cars honked and drivers waved in encouragement, adding to the feeling that we were also representing those who weren’t able to attend. Once we got to the Capitol, there were volunteers handing out water and registering people to vote. Even the sight of an extremely small group of counter-protesters was uplifting. At that moment, everyone seemed united in standing up for what they believe in and discussing an issue that has become so divisive in our country.
People often wonder why others choose to march. I’ve wondered that myself. The Women’s March didn’t end sexism. The March For Our Lives won’t end gun violence. But standing there among 20,000 people in front of the Capitol building, I started to understand. While it takes more than just a march to initiate change, events such as this one are what help encourage people to keep moving forward. Citizen activism like this sends a message to our lawmakers who might forget the sort of practical change that the public wants. Personally, it’s what gives me hope that this discussion on gun control won’t be a passing fad. There’s more work that needs to be done, but to know that there are others who want to accomplish the same goals means that we don’t need to do it alone.