Wylie Crawford, Sharon Karp, Betzey O'Brien, Erica Karp, Terry O'Brien
Up to 8,000 people gathered along the Sarasota bayfront today to participate in March For Our Lives — a national event advocating for stricter gun control, organized by the student victims of a mass shooting earlier this year in Parkland, Florida.
When asked why they went to the Sarasota event, many protesters said simply, “to support the students.” Although the event was student-led, adults turned out in force to encourage them.
“Our kids deserve better,” said Barbara Coy, holding a sign that said “Stop the B.S.” “We, as human beings, deserve better.”
The march was more of a demonstration, as sign-holders lined both sides of U.S. 41 near Gulf Stream Avenue, encouraging drivers to honk to show their support. Police estimate there were between 6,000-8,000 people at the event.
A stage near the Unconditional Surrender statue allowed speakers, primarily students, to say their piece advocating for change in the way the U.S. reacts to gun violence. Many speakers encouraged attendees to get ready to vote in the next election.
Seventh and eighth graders Amelia White and Willow Schwartzwald were among those holding signs along the road.
“[We came] to grieve the kids that lost their lives, and make the point that we need change,” White said.
"We want to be there to support the kids."
Dave and Darlene Roether held signs along Gulfstream Avenue, just a short way away from White and Schwartzwald, one of which read “Hippies are proud of you.”
“As part of the generation at protested the war in Vietnam, we understand you have to stand up for what you believe in,” Darlene Roether said.
Sharon and Erica Karp also likened the students’ protests to the 1960s. They believed they were able to stop the Vietnam War, and that students now will help put a stop to gun violence.
The student-led event was one of more than 800 around the world that occurred at the same time as an estimated 1 million people marched in Washington, D.C. for the same cause.
The February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 dead, and prompted a wave of student-led activism across the nation. On March 14, students in classrooms around the country staged walkouts, including high schools in Sarasota County.
“It’s not safe for [students] and we want to be there to support the kids,” Linda Monda said. “In general, as citizens, we should feel safe. And we don’t.”