Scott Peters Joins San Diegans at March for Our Lives Rally
Rep. Peters joined San Diegans from across the county in protesting gun violence at the March for Our Lives rally on March 24.
The rally was profiled in a March 24 piece for The San Diego Union Tribune, posted below:
March for Our Lives rallies massive in San Diego County, nationwide
By Greg Moran and J. Harry Jones
March 24, 2018
About 90 minutes before the March for Our Lives demonstration was set to begin in downtown San Diego Saturday, 18-year-old Sydney Cummings was asked what she wanted people to take away from the march.
“We’re not okay with the current gun legislation,” said Cummings, a senior at West Hills High School in Santee. And then added after a pause, “Youth have a voice. And it’s a powerful one.”
That voice resonated loudly through downtown, joined and amplified by the voices of thousands of adults joining in a huge demonstration calling for tighter gun laws, less gun violence and meaningful political change.
The San Diego march, which started at the San Diego County Waterfront Park, was led and largely organized by students from across the county. It was one of numerous similar marches in cities nationwide, all in response to the massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month that killed 17 people and wounded another 17.
San Diego police estimated the crowd size between 5,000 and 10,000 people.
The marchers had three demands: a law banning the sale of assualt-style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting; a ban on selling high-capacity ammunition magazines; and closing loopholes in background checks that can allow some people, such as the mentally ill, to purchase weapons online or at some gun shows.
A smaller march attended by about 500 people was held in Escondido, and a third in Encinitas.
The events featured speakers, nearly all of them students, giving impassioned speeches calling for an end to gun violence, stricter gun control laws, and urging politicians to stand up to the National Rifle Association. The organization, which is the leading gun-rights group in the country, was not only a particular target of speakers but also the subject of signs and various chants by demonstrators during an hour-long march.
The NRA has said the mounting protests since the Parkland shooting and the high-profile advocacy of students are really a product of adults manipulating and exploiting. On Saturday the group posted a similar message on its Facebook page.
“Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous,” the message said. “Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”
A strong theme running through the speeches and comments from marchers was the vulnerability students said they feel in schools and their communities, as well as a frustration that more strict gun control laws have not been adopted.
Some speakers also referenced other issues like police reform, citing the controversial killing this week of black Sacramento resident Stephon Clark by police as he held a cellphone officers said they thought was a gun in his grandparents’ backyard. But much of the focus was on guns, students and schools.
“Everyone is concerned we are going to school, and we won’t come home,” said Amara Vorties, 16, a junior at Monte Vista High School who came to the rally with her friend Terriona Adams, 17. They held signs saying “School Should Never Feel Like a Battlefield” and “MV Will Not Stand 4 This.”
One speaker, Khadijah Abdulmatten from El Camino High School, said legislators should heed the calls of the marchers. For those who don’t she had a warning, which was greeted by a massive cheer from the crowd: “I have four words — Midterm elections are coming.”
The crowd was boisterous and orderly. At one point a man carrying a “Trump for President” flag on a flagpole made his way near the front, causing a momentary disturbance. But rally leaders urged protesters not to engage with him. The man was soon surrounded by others holding anti-NRA signs and a large Rainbow flag of the LGBTQ community, without any noticeable conflict.
One of the organizers of the San Diego rally, Mohamed Elnakib, 23, said in an interview Friday that the rally had been planned for more than a month by student leaders from around the county.
“A lot of people were interested in this topic, but it’s one that affects students directly,” said Elnakib. For that reason he said it was important that students — and not the usual lineup of elected officials — organize, speak and lead the rally and march.
“We wanted to make sure it was the student voices that were heard,” he said.
The march began just before 11 a.m. heading south on North Harbor Drive, then looping back north up Pacific Highway. The crowd was large enough that it almost looped the route.
Dave Levin of San Diego, who marched while carrying his 2½-year-old daughter Melina, said he hopes the protests are an indicator that Congress would adopt what he called reasonable gun control measures.
“It seems as though there is a wave of people supporting change,” he said. “I hope that gets through to the politicians who are on the fence and convinces them to do what the people want.”
That, too, was the hope of 20-year-old Emily Landers as she paused along the route. “I want reasonable legislation,” she said. “As angry as I can get over this issue, I really want there to be change.”
In Escondido, the crowd gathered in front of City Hall at the corner of West Valley Parkway and Broadway. It was organized by Melissa Leonard, a Palomar College student and Escondido resident who created a Facebook event page and then contacted the national March for Our Lives organization to coordinate events.
“I just said enough is enough, so I reached out to my community to see who was interested in doing a march,” Leonard said. “I’m so tired of seeing people get hurt. I’m so tired of the violence.”
Student speakers had similar concerns as their counterparts in San Diego.
Jose Moreno, 17, a senior at Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, told the crowd gun violence was a given in his Vista neighborhood as he grew up but that school had always been the one place he used to feel safe and comfortable.
“But we’ve been practicing active-shooter drills every month for years now,” he said. “My first priority at school should be about my education. It should not be a place to worry about my safety.”
Among those in the crowd were Bonsall residents Rachel Thomas and her 9-year-old daughter, Taylor.
“We’re just here to show support for the students and to bring an end to school gun violence and to help pass stricter gun laws,” Rachel Thomas said. “It’s time our government officials listened.”