Kids across the country will hit the streets on Saturday for “March For Our Lives” events to protest gun violence and demand action from lawmakers.
About 500,000 people are expected at the national event in Washington D.C. and tens of thousands of others will take part in local events in cities across the country.
Attendees in Snohomish County are no strangers to gun violence in schools. Four students were killed in the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting in 2014. Three Kamiak High School graduates were gunned down by a teen at a house party in 2016. An Everett teen was arrested in February for allegedly plotting a Columbine-style shooting at ACES High School in April.
All of that makes the fight against gun violence in schools extremely personal for students organizing the rallies and marches in Snohomish County, including Kamiak student Niko Battle.
“The fact that people lost their friends, their loved ones to yet another incident of gun violence, and I think that that’s preventable,” Battle said.
He says he and other students go to school every day in fear it could be their last. And to the critics who say that’s an exaggeration because, statistically, there really aren’t that many school shootings, Battle says it’s not just about someone opening fire.
“Two years ago, our school was put on lockdown for almost an entire day because someone set off firecrackers in the stairwell,” Battle said. “There was that fear that we could be the next Newtown, we could be the next Columbine or whatever school that you want to name, that that could have been us. That fear was there for all the people in that lockdown.”
Paula Townsell is a mom and the lead organizer of the march in Everett. She says the stories that students who are helping to plan the event tell her are heartbreaking.
“The fear and then the sadness,” Townsell recalls. “They really think about how their parents would feel if they got shot at school and killed. They think about what their grandmothers would do. The feelings are so huge. The fears these kids have about going to school. Their fear that they’re more at risk from being in a classroom than being at home from the danger’s in society. That’s not okay. That’s not why we support our schools. That’s not why we send our kids to school.”
Townsell says they have a clear message to lawmakers:
“To reinstate the ban on assault weapons. Assault weapons have no place in our civilized society. That’s it. They don’t belong here.”
Niko Battle’s message for lawmakers:
“They can’t keep coming back and expecting us, expecting the next generation to be as loyal to them as our parents and our grandparents. That if they want our vote, they’re going to have to earn them and they’re going to earn them by taking a stand against gun violence that puts our lives at risk every day we go to school.”
A rally in Marysville starts at 10 a.m. Many of the students taking part in that rally will head to Everett for a 1 p.m. rally at the Snohomish County Courthouse Plaza, followed by a march at 2 p.m.