Wednesday, May 22, 2019
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20180324 MarchRally 0071Over one month after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Florida, millions of people around the world took to the streets Saturday in honor of those victims, and residents here in the Valley participated.

Organized by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day, the “March for Our Lives” rally showcased teens calling on Congress to enact stricter gun-control laws.

As many publications have pointed out, reactions to the Parkland shooting is different from previous school shootings due to many of the survivors of the shooting speaking out on social media on the lack of any gun-control reform following two decades of school shootings.

In McAllen, Lamar Academy students Valeria Arguelles and Andrea Ramirez saw this trend and wanted to participate, leading them to organize a local March for Our Lives rally where 500 local residents marched nearly four miles from their school to McAllen City Hall in downtown McAllen and back.

“We hear about tragedies like this in the news, and for about three months, we pray about it and discuss it but after a while, you hear about it less and less until it’s just the survivors of the shooting and the family members of the victims, who have the memories of the shooting, haunting them for the rest of their lives,” Ramirez said at the beginning of the march. “It’s not fair that I get to live my life while there are other students deprived the basic human right of an education because the proper measures to secure a school were not taken. I refuse to allow the Parkland shooting-or any shooting-to become a marginalized memory. We do that, and this will happen again and again.”

The McAllen event was one of many held around the world as part of this nationwide movement.

In Washington D.C., a crowd of 800,000 attended the rally, making it the largest demonstration in the capital’s history according to Harper’s Bazaar.

18-year-old Emma González, a student at Parkland who has become an outspoken activist for gun control following the shooting, spoke at that Washington event. She held a moment of silence that lasted six minutes-the time it took Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz to carry out his attack.

“Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job,” González said before she left the stage.

Mission native Allan Fisher-Garcia was among the individuals at Saturday’s march in Washington. He said his involvement in the march was serendipitous as he was in town to lobby the Equality Act to Texas representatives in Congress and the Senate on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign and the organization decided to participate in the march.

“It was truly inspiring witnessing the children of Parkland rise to a higher calling after experiencing such a tragedy,” he said. “To see the massive participation of the march back home in the Valley and in cities across the country is a testament to the strength of this movement and the political action of the nation’s youth.”

For Ramirez, the event is a way to ensure incidents like that of Parkland never happen again.

“The idea of another child losing their life in a place where they’re supposed to be figuring out their life, is heartbreaking,” she said. “I want school to be a place where my little brother doesn’t have to be afraid. There is power and strength in us that allows us to change the future and make the world the better place for future generations. This is just the beginning.”

Among the students who attended the McAllen march was Gabriel Cepeda, a senior at IDEA Academy in Pharr. He marched with a sign that read “Enough is enough” and joined in the crowd chanting “Not One More.”

“The Parkland incident was so devastating and then right after that, my school had a shooting threat,” Cepeda recalled. “It was terrifying to see something like this here at home and school is not supposed to be like that. We’re supposed to learn and grow to be good individuals in the future and realize our full potential and we have to ensure our schools are safe.”

Parents also participated in the march. Iris Saenz-a McAllen insurance agent-was there with her husband and their 7-year-old-grandson, Sergio. Sergio carried a sign that read “Am I next?”

“His sign has shock value, he’s a child- we can’t say he isn’t next,” Iris said during the march. “With the prevalence of guns in the nation, no one is immune from being a victim of gun violence. We’re here to say enough is enough.”

The McAllen march had the support of Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez, who was part of the safety patrol to guide the crowd along their route.
Rodriguez praised the march’s organizers and its attendees and agreed there should be some kind of gun reform to prevent future incidents like those in Parkland.

“What these kids are voicing is that they believe they are being misrepresented by people in charge and don’t feel safe,” he said. “This march isn’t even about the second amendment or having guns taken away, they are asking for help ensuring they will be safe in school.”