Thousands came to Sarasota’s Bayfront Park on Saturday for the March of Our Lives! They lined the streets and filled the park engulfing the Unconditional Surrender statue. There were students, parents, grandparents, activists and many senior citizens all coming to support the kids. This was their show, their time, their chance to speak.
The event started in song with Troy Nichols, from Second Chance, Last Opportunity, who worked with the kids on the songs leading the group with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and the 1985 anthem written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, “We Are the World”. Both songs over 30 years old and as relevant today as they were in the time when they were written. Students then took the stage to speak on gun control and safety in our schools. Many students expressed fear and concern in going to school. They stood in solidarity with their counterparts in Parkland and with marchers around the world.
Some of the Sarasota and Manatee County schools represented by students were from Riverview, Booker, Alta Vista, Pineview, Sarasota, Wakeland, Bayshore and Sarasota Military Academy. There was one common thread in talking to all the students, fear of going to school and getting shot. Megan, a student from Sarasota Military Academy said, “People my age are scared to go to school, people’s gun rights are above our student rights to go to school”. “A few of our staff are armed and people would expect us to feel more safe because we are at a military academy, but honestly it is still just a school.”
One of the event speakers, Lauren Bell stated, “I am here to stand up and let people know we won’t be silenced, we won’t let Parkland become just another statistic”. “We are saying enough is enough” Lauren is one of the students who organized the 17-minute walkout at Riverview High School. 13-year old twins Anastasia and Ariel Samedi from Booker Middle said they were there to “speak about what is right for their school and their community”. Along with them were their three siblings, brothers Israel, Isaiah and sister Zaire who were holding their handmade signs and wearing “March For Our Lives” shirts.
There were tables set up to register to vote. March For Our Lives t-shirts, buttons and printed signs were everywhere. Homemade signs from “Never Again” to “Books not Bullets” lined the street along the park. NRA protestors were in attendance. The was a drone taking some aerial shots of the crowd. A great turnout for SRQ and as the kids said, “This is only the beginning, we have a lot of work to do”!
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography