Holding signs that advocated for student safety, more than 3,300 students marched in a coordinated effort to protest gun violence in downtown San Antonio Saturday. Dozens of students from across the city planned the local March For Our Lives, which started at City Hall and ended with a rally at the Alamo.
The main event in Washington, D.C., and more than 800 other events worldwide, were held for the same reason: To remember the lives lost from gun violence in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and elsewhere.
Marchers began their trek to the Alamo on North Flores Street, turning down East Houston Street. The San Antonio Police Department closed the road to vehicular traffic for the march. The crowd chanted various phrases, including “hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?” and “schools need funds, they don’t need guns.”
And then: Silence.
When the marchers arrived at the Alamo, several students spoke and then initiated a “die-in.” Participants as young as an infants in strollers to students in college, lay on the grounds of Alamo Plaza, motionless with eyes closed. Others in the crowded downtown plaza, sat with their heads down while observers, mostly parents, looked on.
Former Harlandale Independent School District teacher Heather Aguillon brought her daughter Daisy, who attends Vestal Elementary, to the march. She said she and Daisy had a tough conversation with Daisy on Friday to talk about why gun law reform is important.
Augillon doesn’t understand why some are proposing that guns be made more widely available than epipens, she said, which are currently kept locked away.
“We can’t carry an epipen, but Trump wants us to carry a gun,” she said. “How does that make any sense?”
Daisy said it was her first-ever march and thought the protest was “great for the community.”
San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus marched alongside students and families to support keeping kids safe.
After students read off a list of demands that mainly included reforming gun laws to implement stricter gun control, McManus said he wasn’t there to weigh in on the politics of the event. The chief said because his children are in school, he knew a lot of people in attendance.
“Who is not for supporting our parents in protecting our kids?” he told the Rivard Report.
Local leaders supported the students efforts. Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) walked alongside students. Councilman Manny Palaez (D8) offered student marchers a community service hour for their efforts.
“Nonviolent civil disobedience is a time-honored tradition that I respect,” Palaez wrote in a press release. “These students are doing the work that too many adults refuse to do. … If calling attention to the lack of safety in schools is not community service, then nothing is.”
Organizers of the event chose to spotlight gun violence in all forms, not just mass shooting in schools. Yaneth Flores, a student at the University of Texas at San Antonio, spoke at the end rally and highlighted that this march took shape after violence against many white students. She asked the crowd to remember minority students who are more often the victims of gun violence.
“The stories of black and brown children never make the headlines,” she said, calling on the crowd assembled to protect children of all races and economic means.
Saturday’s event ended with organizers imploring marchers to register to vote and exercise that right in every election. Voter registrars with MOVE San Antonio, a nonprofit that aims to mobilize young people, said they signed up about 50 people to vote right after the march first ended, but more lines were already forming.
Organizers of the event estimated there were roughly 3,300 people in attendance.
Students plan to participate in further demonstrations, namely a walkout on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting in 1999. Students at various San Antonio schools have already committed to walking out of the classroom at 10 a.m. and not return to school for the rest of the day.
Kirsten Leal, a 10th grade student at Johnson High School in NEISD, attended the march with other Never Again club members. The club formed after students walked out of their classroom in February and worked to continue their push for reform.
Leal said the club wants to continue talking to people who can implement change, including their superintendent and elected officials.
“We don’t want to stop, the change needs to happen now,” she said.
The Never Again club will continue to remember the shooting in Parkland on April 20, when they plan to walk out to their football field and take an aerial photo to send in support to the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.