Here Are Some Of The Most Powerful Messages Against Gun Violence From Celebrities At L.A.'s March For Our Lives
They joined students from Parkland to advocate voting against gun-control opponents.
Actress Olivia Wilde speaks at the March for Our Lives Los Angeles rally. Photo by Sarah Morris / Getty Images.
THE GOOD NEWS:
The February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has led to a nationwide movement started by politically engaged youth.
The message of the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018, in downtown Los Angeles was clear.
From a stage facing a crowd of thousands, actress Olivia Wilde made a proclamation echoed by speakers again and again throughout the day: “Your elected officials work for you. Do not let those who choose to accept money from the NRA profit from your hopelessness or from the blood of your peers. Instead, vote them out,” she said.
At this, the crowd erupted in cheers. Over and over, they chanted, “Vote them out.”
The event, which drew scores of people to the streets surrounding Los Angeles City Hall, was one of the hundreds of March for Our Lives rallies taking place nationwide. The action was organized by students calling for stricter gun control laws after 17 people were killed Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]You are digging the graves of the people that you are sworn to protect.[/quote]
The event wasn’t just aimed at raising awareness about the deadly effects of gun violence or collecting money for the nonprofit March for Our Lives Action Fund, which to date has amassed $3.4 million of its $3.8 million goal. The underlying objective, of course, was policy change, and speakers took every opportunity to hold public officials accountable for their inaction on gun control.
In her speech, actor and comedian Amy Schumer conjured images of blood, tears, and bullets, blasting the politicians she said had enabled these mass killings by accepting money from the National Rifle Association.
“We are fighting for the survival of innocent victims, but you’re too busy counting money and hating anyone who disagrees with you to realize that you are digging the graves of the people that you are sworn to protect,” Schumer said.
In 2015, she had teamed with her cousin, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), to call for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting that year at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater during a screening of her movie, “Trainwreck.” A year later, she dedicated parts of her memoir, “Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo,” to the Lafayette victims.
But onstage at the L.A. march, she called out the gun industry. “I’m talking to the ones who ignore the halls of schools filling with blood and tears and the pictures of children who should still be with us. They translate school shootings into more sales,” she added, referencing the unfortunate fact that gun sales tend to rise after every mass shooting as gun advocates brace for potential restrictions on guns.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took the premise even further in his speech, quoting student activist and Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez. Referring to her as “the great American philosopher, Garcetti cited some Gonzalez’s wisdom, stating “We call BS” on the NRA.
Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas/GOOD.
United by their grief, dozens of speakers at the L.A. rally — which featured musical sets by Questlove, Charlie Puth, and Rita Ora and appearances including Willow Smith and Yara Shahidi — paid tribute to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, whom they credited with leading the charge for gun control.
Nearly everyone who took the stage had been affected by gun violence in some way or another. Schumer recalled the stories of Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, two young women who were fatally shot at the Lafayette movie theater. Singer and actor Ta’Rhonda Jones, who stars on the Fox television show “Empire,” said she became an activist for gun control when her cousin was killed in Chicago in 2014. And countless survivors of shootings across the country — including at a country music festival in Las Vegas in October and at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last month — told horrific stories about losing their friends and classmates to gunfire.
“You should be going to school to get an education and a future and not wondering if you’re ever going to see that future,” said Mia Freeman, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “Enough is enough. There needs to be change,” she said. “This should never happen again.”
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Get with the program, Mr. President, or get the hell out of the way.[/quote]
“Vinyl” actor and social justice advocate Wilde had a warning for politicians who scoffed at “brave young activists,” telling Washington to “underestimate them at your own risk.”
Yara Shahidi advocates for gun control at March for Our Lives. Photo by Tatiana Cardenas/GOOD.
To “Black-ish” actor Yara Shahidi, who graduated high school last year and is currently deferring enrollment to Harvard University, the effectiveness of student activism came as no surprise: “Student-led movements is where it all started,” she said.
Yet since the Parkland shootings, the federal government has yet to enact significant gun control policy. More than 40% of gun owners in America purchased their most recent firearm without a background check, according to one 2017 study. And, as numerous signs at the March for Our Lives pointed out, federal law places more restrictions on products like Kinder Eggs — a chocolate banned by the Federal Drug Administration because the toy inside it was deemed a choking hazard — than it does on assault weapons.
Mayor Garcetti pointed to city and state laws banning military-style assault weapons and bump stocks as an example for the rest of the country to follow. His message to President Donald Trump was simple: “Get with the program, Mr. President, or get the hell out of the way.”
Photo by Tatiana Cardenas/GOOD.
Thanks to the organization of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, activists who attended March for Our Lives are hopeful that change is coming. “I’m from Chicago, where the murder rate is at an all-time high, and I can definitely understand where these babies are coming from,” Ta’Rhonda Jones told GOOD backstage. “If you’re not safe in school, you’re not safe in churches, and where I’m from, we’re not safe in our homes because bullets are flying through the window. When are we going to say ‘Enough is enough’? This is getting ridiculous; this is getting out of hand.”
Jones, like many others who spoke at the March for Our Lives rally, called attention to the fact that gun violence isn’t just affecting schools and churches — it’s also disproportionately plaguing communities of color in cities like Chicago. “The March for Our Lives is something that is universal because so many people are affected by gun violence, unfortunately, whether it’s in the classroom, whether it’s in your own community, whether it’s in your own backyard while you’re talking on the phone,” Shahidi told GOOD, referencing Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was fatally shot in his backyard last week when Sacramento police mistook his cell phone for a gun.
“To be able to be at a movement that really combines that and really goes against the socioeconomic fractures that we deal with so many times in political movements or generational fractures that we deal with,” she said. “It can be a really inclusive moment, in which we recognize just how insidious gun violence is and even take a moment to highlight the gun violence that is not always talked about.”
Wilde, too, drew parallels between the Parkland gun control movement and the Black Lives Matter movement’s calls for justice following police shootings in Ferguson and Baltimore.
“The heroism of this youth-led movement is awe-inspiring because it is made up of voices from a broad choir of youth from Parkland to Columbine to Ferguson to Chicago to DC to Baltimore,” she said. “We must remember to hear each voice equally.”