So you want to be one of the tens of thousands expected to join the March For Our Lives rally against gun violence in the nation’s capital but can’t make it to down Washington, D.C.?
Not to worry. An enterprising — and passionate — local group of young people has a planned a “sibling rally” on Boston Common sparked by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead.
“There’s a couple of goals for Saturday. One is to stand in solidarity with the national movement created by students,” said Jack Torres, a 15-year-old sophomore at Somerville High School and one of the organizers of Boston’s rally. “But in Massachusetts there’s a couple of differences. A lot of gun violence that affects our community is on the streets in communities of color instead of a mass shooting.”
Saturday’s demonstration begins at Madison Park Vocational High School in Roxbury. Participants will begin gathering at 9 a.m. (Lyft is offering free rides to the start point, organizers say.) Demonstrators then will march to the Common at 11 a.m., mostly traveling along Columbus Avenue through the South End and into downtown, where the rally starts at 2 p.m.
Students will address the crowd, and unlike the national rally, some adults will, too — but only teachers. No elected officials or politicians are allowed to talk.
It’s unclear exactly how many people will attend, though more than 70,000 have indicated on social media that they plan to be there.
“We are expecting a large crowd, so we’ll have plenty of resources and officers out there in order to ensure the safety of all attending, ” Boston police Officer Rachel McGuire said.
The Department doesn’t foresee any problems but will be prepared for anything, she said.
And students want those in attendance to be prepared, too, creating a list of dos and don’ts in a guide. Do: Stick with friends and family; avoid confrontations; bring snacks, portable chargers, extra cash, and water. Don’t: Engage counterprotesters; wear clothes with hate speech; affix sticks or stakes to rally signs; bring masks, backpacks, lighters, drugs and alcohol, or weapons.
Plans for Saturday’s rally on Boston Common came together organically after students in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and Andover started organizing walkouts and protests at their individual high schools after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland. One person from each school got in touch with someone from another school — and so on and so on — and the March For Our Lives in Boston came to be.
A core group of about eight student organizers, some of whom are in college, have divided up responsibilities — logistics, speakers, voter registration, fund-raising, etc. Somerville students got outreach and media relations.
“It’s been really busy around here,” said Laura-Luiza Gouvea, who is 15 and a sophomore at Somerville High School. The agenda for Saturday’s rally in Boston is a little different from the activities in Washington, D.C., because Massachusetts has some of the nation’s strongest gun laws, Torres and Gouvea said. Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are illegal here.
So while students in Boston join survivors of the shooting in Parkland in calling for stronger federal gun laws, they are also pushing for the passage of state legislation that would allow family and household members to petition courts to temporarily remove guns from individuals who pose risks to the public or themselves.
Still, Torres said, the goals of the two groups of students are the same: to stop violence and protect children.
“This is not a new topic,” Gouvea said. “Gun violence has been around for ages, particularly in communities of color.”
What has changed, she said, is that adults are finally willing to listen to what young people have to say about the issue. In the wake of the shooting in Parkland, survivors have captured the attention of the world and began changing the national conversation on gun control.
The teens have stood before crowds of thousands, giving impassioned speeches broadcast around the world. They inspired a nationwide classroom walkout. Four states have changed gun laws. And now, a rally in Washington, D.C., that could attract up to a half-million people and sibling rallies in hundreds of cities across the globe, including Boston.
“Youth were given this ginormous platform where adults were like, ‘We’ll sit down and listen to you,’ and that is what is really motivated me to keep working,” Gouvea said. “It’s actually been amazing.”