This Saturday, March 24, is going to witness a landmark event for the young people of the United States. Called March For Our Lives, this event is likely to be the largest student-led protest in the history of the nation. Though the main march is planned for America's capitol, Washington, D.C. (and expects around 500,000 people), many other cities across the country have their own events planned.
By any measure, it will be huge—perhaps even as major as the Women's March that occurred in 2017 (and again earlier this year). But in this case, the momentum behind it is coming not from adults, but from high school students. That's incredible.
How did we come to such a historic moment for youth in the U.S.?
The particular event that most sparked this protest was the tragic February 14 shooting that happened at a high school in Parkland, Florida. But if that had been a unique event, we would not be seeing so many students descending on Washington in protest. Unfortunately this is not the only time a tragedy such as this has happened in America. Students are protesting what they feel is a lack of strong government response to this problem.
The high school students participating in March For Our Lives are some of the first kids to grow up in the era of school shooter drills in America. (These are designed to practice how to respond safely if a shooter comes to a school.) These drills were started as a response to the Columbine, Colorado school shooting on April 20, 1999.
Today, students are marching to say that they feel that the drills do not properly address the problem. They want tougher gun laws, instead. Ones that stop these shooters from getting guns in the first place.
Beyond the United States
March For Our Lives has struck a global chord. It has inspired partner marches around the world on every continent. In Canada alone, around a dozen events are planned, ranging from major cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal, to smaller towns like Thompson, Manitoba and Stratford, Ontario. Meanwhile, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Vietnam, Chile, Romania, and Ghana are just some of the countries with cities hosting protests.
What is notable about these global events is that generally these other countries do not have this gun issue. Studies show that this type of gun violence is very particular to the United States. And yet, young people around the globe feel a desire to support the students marching to make their lives safer.
Ready for the March
Meanwhile, back in Washington, local moms have been making arrangements to help house visiting student protesters. By networking via Twitter and Facebook, they are helping students who wish to protest, but who could not afford a hotel (or even legally pay for one yet). After all, you can't march without a good night's rest!
A protest like this could be a turning point in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young Americans. But already, the fact that they are speaking out has been a turning point for the gun debate in the United States. Whatever happens next, the conversation is not likely to be the same as it once was.