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People by the National Gallery of Art Museum in Washington, DC. (Pablo Chillida / SFNS)
People by the National Gallery of Art Museum in Washington, DC. (Pablo Chillida / SFNS)

March for Our Lives: Washington updates

After enduring a 20-hour bus ride from South Florida on a bus caravan with sleepy drivers, no heat and mediocre food offerings, students, alumni, parents and supporters of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrived in the nation’s capital for the March for Our Lives rally.

Hundreds of thousands are expected for the march, which is scheduled to begin at noon on Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol. MSD students and supporters gathered at the JW Marriott nearby for a quick breakfast and coffee  at about 9 a.m. before heading out.

The vast majority of marchers are urging stricter gun laws, many with banners with the hashtags #neveragain and #MSDStrong, a reaction to the mass shooting on Feb. 14 where 17 students, faculty and staff members lost their lives at the Parkland school.

Follow the South Florida News Service team both in South Florida as well as in Washington. We will be posting live updates throughout the day on the events, people and general goings on.

— Dan Evans, South Florida News Service

3:48 p.m.

#MarchForOurLives attendees leave after rally ends.

— Maria Gil, South Florida News Service

3:24 p.m.

Mimi Allerton of Summit, New Jersey, was once a second grade teacher, and she said that Sandy Hook changed her. That’s why she was marching in DC.

Allerton said she felt that the movement and march was powerful and moving.

“Every time I see them on TV, I’m more impressed,” she said, trying to hold back tears after listening to Emma Gonzalez’s speech.

She believed the students are changing the conversation and taking power back from the NRA.

“I feel hopeful for the first time in a long time about guns,” she said.

— Maria Gil and Adrian Nones-Newman, South Florida News Service

2:47 p.m.

Daddio

Paul Daddio, 40, carefully guided his double stroller through the crowd at the March For Our Lives rally. Inside the stroller was his 5-year-old daughter, Gina, and his 2-year-old, Ernest. Gina was carrying a sign urging the government to protect her.

Daddio said he brought his kids because it is important for them to know that they can raise awareness. The fact that he has kids, he said, makes this a personal issue.

He said for this movement to make changes it would have to keep its momentum: visibility in the news, calling congresspeople –anything to keep the topic in the spotlight.

“Change is long overdue,” he said, adding there is no need for a civilian to have a weapon of war.

“I think that would be obvious,” he said.

— Jessica Armella, South Florida News Service

2:39 p.m.

crowd view from above   crowd view from above2

A view of the crowd.

— Pablo Chillida, South Florida News Service

2:30 p.m.

Edward Finlayson, 34, proudly presented his punny poster for all to see: “Musket better laws. More puns, less guns. This is your shot, Congress.”

It was a small dose of humor in a sea of blunt messages.

He made the seven-hour car ride alone from New Haven, Connecticut, to support the cause.

“I’m fortunate enough to not have been affected directly by gun violence, but I can empathize and look at our gun violence problem,” he said. “This is a problem, and it does not seem to be going away.”

After he saw the passion and emotion that surrounded him, Finlayson said he felt encouraged.

“If this doesn’t touch you emotionally, you might be a little dead inside,” he said.

Finlayson said he sees the march as inspiring young people, something of paramount importance.

“I think if events like this can effectuate positive change throughout our electorate, that then filters down to our laws and citizens,” he said. “Then its worth it.”

— Alondra Bodden, South Florida News Service

Edward Finlayson with his sign. (Alondra Bodden SFNS)

Edward Finlayson with his sign. (Alondra Bodden SFNS)

2:02 p.m.

Retired Army veteran Bill Lahue, 57, came to March For Our Lives with his wife, Mila, 56, from Fairfax, Virginia, on the Metro to DC.

“America is being held hostage by the NRA, who have become fanatical,” he said while standing next to his backpack with an American flag poking out. “I’m a gun owner, but I’m not crazy.”

Bill and his wife recently returned from a six-year overseas post in eastern Europe, where Lahue was head of a NATO operation.

“We’re here to support the children and are very proud of what they’ve achieved,” Mila Lahue said. “We should listen to them.”

— Adrian Nones-Newman, South Florida News Service

1:57 p.m.

1:34 p.m.

Mark Garraham and his girlfriend, Leonora Merkel, traveled from Westchester County in New York to attend the march.

The two stood with sandwich boards detailing the death of Dean Garraham, who shot and killed himself at age 23. The boards included a photo of the two brothers, a police report of the 1993 incident and an autopsy report.

“It’s at the point where he’s been gone longer than he’s been alive,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, because you feel like you’re doing something.”

Garraham added that he thought if the gruesome aftermath was widely shared, people would think twice about what type and kind of guns are widely available.

“People should know what it looks like when you open up on a group of children,” he said. “The blood, the brains.”

— Dan Evans, South Florida News Service

1:13 p.m.

arms for hugs   next election   chances of dying

— Alondra Bodden, South Florida News Service

1:07 p.m.

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-24 at 1.07.22 PM

12:45 p.m.

Pushing along her young daughter, Naomi, Elena Dean hoped the march would create a safer America for her daughter.

Naomi, who is 2, had already been to two historic marches, the Women’s March and March For Our Lives.

“She may not remember these marches, but I hope that when she’s conscious enough we would have made some progress on some of these topics,” said Dean.

Dean said she hoped her daughter grows up in an country where a bigger portion of the nation’s budget will be allocated to education, jobs and opportunities.

“I hope that, in the future, the world is more equal than unequal,” she said.

Dean believed the march will have a strong impact on the 2018 midterm elections.

“I think if everyone here calls their representatives even just a few times, that would help,” she said. “Voting, of course, would too.”

— Alondra Bodden, South Florida News Service

12:32 p.m.

Gloria Grabrenstein, an 80-year-old grandmother from Pennsylvania, said is marching so her family can live in a safer country.

She said children should be able to grow up without fearing of being shot.

“I’m very passionate about this,” she said, holding a sign demanding stricter gun regulations.

She said she’s hopeful that the March For Our Lives rally will change gun politics in America.

— Pablo Chillida, South Florida News Service

12:23 p.m.

While standing on the streets, an older lady danced to salsa music.

Alongside her was a retired history teacher from the greater Washington, DC, area. Bob Cantor and his wife said they learned to dance while vacationing in Cuba.

But today they stood among the crowd to show their support of Parkland and the March For Our Lives movement.

“Parkland, what they’ve done is incredible,” he said. “They are the light.”

Just 30 steps from Cantor and his wife stood a group of eight 11-year-olds from Bells Mills Elementary with handmade signs.

When asked if they wanted to vote when they were all older, they gave a unanimous “yes.”

Maria Gil and Adrian Nones-Newman, South Florida News Service

Counter protesters outside the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. (Victoria Salas / SFNS)

Counter-protesters outside the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. (Victoria Salas / SFNS)

11:35 a.m.

Ben Davis, 12, of Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, came to the march with parents.

“If my president won’t do anything about this we will,” he said when asked why he was there. “[School shootings] could happen to anyone at anytime.”

— Adrian Nones-Newman

11:31 a.m. 

Ed Solem, 71, is marching against the National Rifle Association, an organization he was once a member of.
 
“At that time, every high school had a rifle range,” said Solem, who went to school in Washington, DC, in the 1960s and was a member of the rifle team.
 
He doesn’t recall when his membership in the NRA expired, but he said he didn’t care.
 
“Before, the NRA wasn’t a big lobbying organization,” he said. “Now they have a ridiculous position toward gun regulation.”
 
Solem said he expects the movement that sparked the march to energize young people to vote.
 
“I’m hoping this upcoming election is going to be the one where NRA’s money becomes bad,” he said.
 
— Pablo Chillida, South Florida News Service

11:08 a.m. 

Donning two signs over his body, Vergil Watson demonstrated his passion for change throughout his life.

Watson, 80, said he went to the Poor Peoples March 50 years ago, the Selma march and many others.

He said he believes that this march will be much larger in numbers and will create real and lasting change in the nation’s gun laws.

“This is amazing,” he said. “If this doesn’t do anything, they should come back every month.”

— Alondra Bodden, South Florida News Service

10:52 a.m.

More than 1,000 Stoneman Douglas students and supporters began marching out of the JW Marriott hotel at 10 a.m., striding up escalators and stairways and out to Pennsylvania Avenue, heading toward the Capitol.

“We’re going to chant and let them know we’re here,” an organizer shouted through a bullhorn.

And so they did, in call-and-response.

“Who are are we?” echoed through the lobby.

“MSD,” came the roaring reply.

“Who are are we?” echoed off stately government buildings

“MSD,” came answering echoes.

The march has begun.

— Neil Reisner, South Florida News Service 

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