High school students and allies seeking stronger gun control laws in North Carolina following last month's Florida school shooting are walking through downtown Raleigh in solidarity with a similar weekend rally in Washington.
The "March for Our Lives" event Saturday morning was set to end at the Halifax Mall behind the state Legislative Building.
Event organizers in Raleigh expected more than 3,000 people to attend in support of legislation that would raise the age at which buyers can purchase some rifles and would improve and expand background checks.
“It's really awe-inspiring to see students lead a national movement, and it's also kind of devastating, to see these students who are ranging from [age] 14 to 18 having to take charge in a movement that shouldn't have had to happen at all,” said Sanzari Aranyak, a senior at Broughton High School in Raleigh. “Since Columbine, our legislators should have been doing something.”
Aranyak said the activism of the students in Parkland inspired her to lead a walkout at her own school. This weekend, she headed to Washington, D.C. for the main March For Our Lives.
“I’ve always felt like with gun violence, it’s been up to the adults and the legislators,” she said. “But if these students can do it -- I’m a senior, I just turned eighteen last Thursday. I’m the generation that’s growing up and will be able to vote. It’s not something I can just leave up to the adults to fix.”
Elsa Mengistu, another student organizer of the Winston-Salem event, said she got involved because she is angry.
“The anger is more so about the fact that a lot of these deaths from gun violence, they could easily be prevented,” said Mengistu, a high school junior from Davidson County. “And yet, we don't do anything but offer thoughts and prayers. “
She said she hopes “that community members come out and they listen. And they understand the pain and the fear, and the rightful anger that we have. And they understand that and they see, this is the time to act.”
Mengistu said she wants those who attend to go back to their communities and make change, by contacting their representatives, and by voting.
Seventeen people died in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“After Columbine, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Americans rallied together to demand change, but nothing really happened,” said Jonathan Trattner, a freshman at Wake Forest University and organizer of the march in Winston-Salem. “I think this time is different though. I think teenagers like me can help lead the way to lasting change, as we join the cry for sensible gun control laws.”