Students, families rally against gun violence as part of national march

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Jessica Roberts, a student at Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts in Columbus, took a few minutes to read, out loud, the names of each of the 17 victims shot and killed in Parkland, FL on Valentine's Day.

"Their lives," she said,  "are about the fact that we need to feel safe in our own schools."

Fellow student, Mary Chen, who attends Columbus High School, called for a crowd of hundreds gathered along Broadway in Uptown Saturday morning, to demand change.

Demand it, with the same passion the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting are now showing, on a national stage.

"We need to follow their example," Chen said, "to show the legislators that we want change."

The voices of more students in Muscogee County echoed from the main stage across several Columbus streets, joining the national outcry and expressing their frustration with lawmakers.

"Enough is enough!" cried M.C. McCoy, a middle school student who took the microphone and spoke before the crowd.  "We're not asking for special treatment. We are asking for our lives."

The group marched, as the event suggests, "for their lives," as did thousands of their fellow students across the country.

And while students have played a pivotal role in pushing the nation-wide movement, parents and advocates from local groups like indivisible Columbus - even current and former teachers - showed their support.

"I work with teenagers, it's amazing," said therapist Margaret McCall. Her daughter, Ella, made a sign to bring with her on the march. "They're so mature, this generation, and they have a voice. They're our next voters," McCall said.

"I think they're making a difference. I'm so impressed with this movement."

Teacher Shane Larkin voiced his support for the movement, criticizing a recent push by many lawmakers to arm teachers. Larkin, an Army combat veteran, said all students deserve a better policy.

"I have extensive experience in both [education and combat[ and I say no... Arming teachers is ineffective and reactionary," he said.

Also present, a few individuals who appeared to taunt otherwise peaceful protesters. The march ran its course and all who participated promised to continue the conversation on gun violence.

In addition to student and teacher speakers, local elected officials recorded messages of support for the march. Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Muscogee County Sheriff Donna Tompkins urged students and families to vote and push for common-sense gun reform.

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