Students Organize for Gun Control
Portland saw students of all ages as well as supportive parents, teachers, and other concerned individuals gather for the “March for Our Lives,” on Saturday morning, March 24. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students from Parkland, FL organized a march and rally on Washington D.C. which inspired similar actions across the nation and the rest of the world to speak out against various forms of gun violence. Portland’s march and rally began in the North Park Blocks and ended in a rally / concert at Pioneer Square.
Trimet buses headed downtown were packed full of parents with children and home-made signs by 9:45AM. The SW Park Avenue and SW Broadway between Pioneer Square and the North Park Blocks bustled with activity leading up to the march. Along the way to the rally, where students from different schools in Portland and Beaverton spoke, there was art, petitions, and punchy-political signs abound. People organizing for ballot initiatives, like petition 42, which seeks to ban assault weapons, could be found all over the march’s path.
Popular street chants [show me what democracy looks like] made way for the central mantra of the day: “gun control now!” Before the main rally and concert, the sound of gongs silenced the crowd gathered in Pioneer Square. The first student speaker, Zoe, performed a partially spoken, partially sung “Response to the State of the Union.” Her central line, “you can’t always trust the hand that feeds you,” spurred the crowd to reflect and applaud.
Walking street bands provided the music until Portugal the Man began performing around noon. A surprise appearance by Black Thought of the Roots livened the crowd, as well. He finished his spontaneous performance with the iconic line, “stand for something or fall for everything.”
While the concert was underway, a small group of pro-gun demonstrators gathered on the SW corner of Pioneer Square. In one interaction, a local environmental activist demanded a street preacher wearing a sweatshirt with the Black Lives Matter logo in gun sights to leave the area. Another interaction involved Franklin High School students debating the tired rhetoric of the pro-gun group.
Eventually the MAGA hats and fired up students with snappy signs left the square, as rainfall increased. The enduring message of the day focused on electoral action, as “vote them out” became more a threat than chant by the end of the day. HeadCount, a nonpartisan organization that aims to register as many people as possible to vote, had volunteers all over the march, making sure that today was only the first step to ensure the continued political engagement of the march’s participants.