Gun Control Rallies Take Place Across U.S., Around the World

TAMPA, Fla. — Hundreds of "March for Our Lives" gun control rallies, marches and protests took place across the U.S. and around the world on Saturday.

More than 10,000 people attended a "March for Our Lives" rally in Tampa, Fla. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn are among those who spoke.

"I'm here today because I'm a mom of a senior in high school," Cathy James of Riverview, Fla., told the Washington Blade as she stood with other members of the Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa in the city's Kiley Gardens where the rally took place. "I'm here as a community member to support our students and to support our community and say this has got to stop. Enough is enough."

Upwards of 800,000 people attended the "March for Our Lives" rally in D.C. on Saturday.

The "March for Our Lives" events took place less than six weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Susana Valdivieso pointed out at the Tampa rally that 7,000 children have died from gun violence since the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. Valdivieso also recalled the shooting that took place at her school on Feb. 14.

"My classmates were not killed by knives or bombs," she said. "They were struck down by the bullets of a semi-automatic weapons in the hands of a 19-year-old aided and abetted by the leniency of laws that make it far too easy to acquire a weapon that can massacre dozens in mere seconds."

"How many more will face down the barrel of a gun before we acknowledge this as a public health crisis," asked Valdivieso.

Media reports indicate 20,000 people took part in a "March for Our Lives" march in Parkland.

Virginia state Del. Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) — a former television reporter whose then-girlfriend, WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were shot to death in 2015 during a live broadcast — spoke at a "March for Our Lives" rally in Blacksburg, Va.

A gunman in 2007 killed 32 people when he opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech, which is located in the city.

More than 20,000 people attended a "March for Our Lives" rally and march in Orlando, Fla.

A gunman in 2016 killed 49 people when he opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in the central Florida city.

Christine Leinonen, whose son, Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, died inside the nightclub, and several survivors of the massacre marched in the D.C. "March for Our Lives" rally. Several of those who attended the "March for Our Lives" rally in Tampa wore t-shirts that honored those who died inside the Pulse nightclub.

A number of the victims were from the Tampa Bay area.

Tracy Vanderneck of Bradenton, Fla., wore an Orlando United t-shirt in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre at the Tampa rally. She told the Blade the "same problems that cause the shootings like at the school are the same problems that cause them at Pulse nightclub."

"We can put different faces on it or different names on it, but it's the same core problem and until all of these people get together and form a united front, it's going to keep happening," said Vanderneck.

Prominent activist acknowledges march participants from Cuba

Gun control advocates around the world also held "March for Our Lives" rallies and events on Saturday.

Several dozen gun control advocates gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Chile. Michael Petrelis, a prominent American LGBT rights activist who is currently visiting Cuba, in a Facebook post from Havana expressed his solidarity with "March for Our Lives" organizers and participants.

"Muchas, muchas gracias (sic) the student and youth leaders of *today* who called for and organized demonstrations," he wrote in his post.

Democrats Abroad Haiti on Saturday posted pictures of their members in Pétionville, Haiti, holding signs in support of gun control.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday in a tweet that acknowledged those who marched in support of gun control noted his government last week introduced "a plan for common sense gun control that will keep our communities safer." This proposal includes enhanced background checks for those who want to have a firearm.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.


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