Thousands Head to Boston Common for the March for Our Lives

On a nationwide day of action, a massive crowd led by students rallied for gun reform.

photo courtesy of Kristin Chalmers

Led by students from across Massachusetts, tens of thousands made their call for gun law reform impossible to ignore on Saturday as they made their way in a seemingly endless swarm from Roxbury to Boston Common.

Waving signs reading “#NEVERAGAIN” and “Protect Children! Not Guns!”, protesters took part in a nationwide March for Our Lives, held in cities around the country in the wake of a school shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida.

They met at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School at 11 a.m., then marched up Columbus Ave. toward the Common for a 2 p.m. rally, where young people and teachers were scheduled to offer remarks on changes to laws on the local and federal level, including an extreme risk protective order, or “red flag,” bill in Massachusetts, and a U.S. ban on assault weapons, akin to the one in place in this state.

At the park, the crowd heard from Massachusetts teenagers, teachers, advocates, and college students, among them Leonor Muñoz, a Northeastern undergrad joined on stage by her sister Beca, who survived the February massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“The thing that sets the people of Parkland apart is our wealth and the color of our skin,” the younger sister said into a microphone. “We cannot be complacent with a system that designates certain areas as safe while communities of color continue to be neglected, abused and disproportionately affected by gun violence. We are here united until no child ever lives with the fear of a bullet. Not one more!”

Organizers have decided not to feature elected officials in the official program, saying they wanted to highlight student voices and emphasize that the movement is being led by youth. They chanted “Hey hey! Ho ho! The NRA has got to go!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” while parents and teachers largely took a back seat.

Politicians did however make an appearance at the beginning of the march, among them U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The protest came two weeks after school walkouts and a day of lobbying at the State House. They have broad support at home: A recent WBUR poll found that a majority in Massachusetts support tighter gun laws, 98 support universal background checks, and 67 percent oppose a push to arm teachers with firearms.

Meanwhile, the March for Our Lives saw its largest contingent in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands descended on the capital.

Support for marchers also came from stars like Celtics legend Bill Russell. “I am proud of this generation standing up for injustice & having their voices heard, making real change. The world is listening,” he wrote on Twitter. “Some may not know me but I stand with you.”

As they headed to the Common, where barricades and a stage had been set up, protesters snarled traffic along the route to the park and packed MBTA trains. The T announced on Twitter that the Boylston stop would be shuttered temporarily and that buses with stops along the route would be detoured.