A massive crowd gathered at Civic Center Park earlier today to show their support for gun reform in Denver’s March for Our Lives rally.
Never Again Colorado played an instrumental part in organizing the rally, and organizer Tay Anderson had big hopes for the impact the protest could have.
“We want to make sure that people understand that this is not a march, it’s a movement. We will be making our voices heard,” Anderson said a day before the event.
Mass shootings have had a significant impact on American culture, and school shootings in particular can create a stifling paranoia that looms over students and parents during school days.
Nicole Chalker, a 36-year-old mother of two children, constantly feels that insecurity.
“I want them to go to school and worry about math problems,” she said. “I don’t want them to worry about guns.”
Her eight-year-old son, Nayan, quickly added: “I think we should ban guns all across America and the world if possible.”
Although elementary school age students are concerned for their safety, high school students have articulately led the charge for the #NeverAgain movement and refuse to settle for feeling unsafe in their schools any longer.
“I want to feel safe going to school. I need things to change.” said Lauren Buchman, a sophomore at Boulder’s Fairview High School.
Littleton High School sophomore Hannah Sanders, 16, said she came to push for changes in gun control and mental health treatment and to show respect for students who lost their lives in the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
She said people were reluctant to talk about the attack at her school, probably because they have become too used to mass shootings.
“Somebody needs to stand up to them,” said Sanders, who wants the minimum age for buying guns to be raised from 18 to 21 and stricter requirements for background checks during gun purchasers.
Sadie Squier, 42, of Lakewood has been politically active on environmental issues and increasing funding for schools but until now she has avoided getting involved in gun control partly because of her respect for many people in her home state, like hunters who use guns responsibly.
But now, with a daughter who is about to turn 4, she feels compelled to act to keep students safe in schools.
She thinks all gun owners should have to attend classes like hunters do to learn about the risks and responsibilities of using their guns. She also does not think assault weapons should be available.
“They don’t have a purpose,” she said.
Kayvan Soorena Tyler Khalatbari-Limaki, a business owner and candidate for mayor, hopes that the mobilization around the issue of gun reform will lead to change.
“This hasn’t been done yet, people in mass marching on this topic, especially being led by kids. … This is a brand new thing that affects all Americans pretty equally, honestly. So, hopefully, we’ll do something about it,” he said.
Religious leaders like Reverend Becky Jones of Saint James Episcopal Church in Wheat Ridge were also in attendance. She believes that the church must hold firm in its longstanding history of denouncing violence of all kinds, preferring adherence to religious doctrine over unyielding commitment to government documents.
“We have a long history of valuing the sixth commandment way more than the second amendment,” she said. “We’re here to speak up for peace. We’re here to support these young folks that are leading us all.”
Speakers like Maddie King, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, personalized the gun control debate by reminding the enormous crowd of the real-world consequences of a country in which school shootings seem alarmingly common.
Other speakers, like Sam Craig, organizer of the Jefferson County school walkouts, encouraged Denver residents to take the next steps of voting into office policymakers that will make gun control a priority. Chants of “vote them out” dominated the day, and after the speakers concluded, the crowd marched around Civic Center Park several times with their signs in hand.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.