This Saturday, students across North Carolina will join their peers from around the nation, yet again, to call for safer schools.
The March For Our Lives comes about a week after thousands of the state's youth walked out of class to protest gun violence – and to memorialize the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“It's really awe-inspiring to see students lead a national movement, and it's also kind of devastating, to see these students who are ranging from [age] 14 to 18 having to take charge in a movement that shouldn't have had to happen at all,” said Sanzari Aranyak, a senior at Broughton High School in Raleigh. “Since Columbine, our legislators should have been doing something.”
Aranyak said the activism of the students in Parkland inspired her to lead a walkout at her own school. And this weekend she’s hopping on a bus and heading to Washington, D.C. for the main March For Our Lives.
“I’ve always felt like with gun violence, it’s been up to the adults and the legislators,” she said. “But if these students can do it -- I’m a senior, I just turned eighteen last Thursday. I’m the generation that’s growing up and will be able to vote. It’s not something I can just leave up to the adults to fix.”
The march in D.C. is expected to draw about half a million people. Organizers of sister events in Raleigh and Winston-Salem are expecting crowds in the thousands.
“After Columbine, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Americans rallied together to demand change, but nothing really happened,” said Jonathan Trattner, a freshman at Wake Forest University and organizer of the march in Winston-Salem. “I think this time is different though. I think teenagers like me can help lead the way to lasting change, as we join the cry for sensible gun control laws.”
Elsa Mengistu, another student organizer of the Winston-Salem event, said she got involved because she is angry.
“The anger is more so about the fact that a lot of these deaths from gun violence, they could easily be prevented,” said Mengistu, a high school junior from Davidson County. “And yet, we don't do anything but offer thoughts and prayers. “
She said she hopes on Saturday “that community members come out and they listen. And they understand the pain and the fear, and the rightful anger that we have. And they understand that and they see, this is the time to act.”
Mengistu said she wants those who attend to go back to their communities and make change, by contacting their representatives, and by voting.