Nearly 4,000 community members, led by local high school students, gathered in Drake Park on Saturday to participate in the March for Our Lives – a national movement against gun violence sparked by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people in February.
Demonstrators began gathering in Drake Park around 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. As the crowd grew local high school students gave speeches asking for politicians to do more to keep them safe in schools. One student sang “Imagine” by John Lennon as Bend Mayor Casey Roats and city council member Nathan Boddie stood on stage behind him.
At noon students, carrying a blue ‘March for Our Lives,’ banner led a march through downtown Bend. The march was so large that the students leading the march came back around to Drake Park before many protestors had even left.
Demonstrators said they were marching specifically for common sense gun control measures including banning bump stocks, semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles; and implementing comprehensive background checks and funding mental health care.
This echoed the messages of the roughly 800 marches that took place across the country on Saturday.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Washington D.C., which was led by survivors of the Parkland shooting, but was meant to raise awareness for all victims of gun violence.
The Parkland students shared the stage with other young people from across the country including Edna Chavez from Los Angles who lost her brother to gun violence; 11-year-old Naomi Wadler who spoke to raise awareness about African-American women and girls who were victims of gun violence; and Yolanda King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr.
While millions marched across the U.S., the movement did see plenty of criticism.
The NRA out out a video responding to the march, saying that the students leading the march were part of, and funded by, a “liberal agenda.” The video also said that the answer to school safety would be providing funding for armed guards in schools and arming teachers.
Here in Bend, Central Oregon Daily saw plenty of comments against the march on our Facebook page. Many community members expressed that they felt it was ridiculous for people to march against their Second Amendment Rights. Others said they should march against cars, since annually more young people die in car accidents then due to gun violence, and some echoed the NRA’s message that the march was part of a political agenda.