Yesterday my wife and I realized that there was a March for Our Lives being held here in Aiken. When we saw a friend of ours describe her 3-year-old’s first pre-school experience with an active shooter drill we realized that if the local teens could get up early on a Saturday to speak up for themselves, we could not justify staying home.
So I charged the camera battery, cleared the memory cards, and made sure I’d have pictures to share. Aiken is a small city in a state that’s hostile to gun control, so even a small crowd is an impressive turn out. The turn out was good, the people were energized, and the kids were clear in their ask: they want to be safe at school and they don’t think that should mean they have to be surrounded by armed guards (police or teachers).
Marcher with sign reading "Gun culture kills!" waiting for the march to start
Students from USCA prepare for the march.
Marcher with sign reading "Ban Assult Weapons" waiting for the march to start.
Marchers gathering, including local clergy.
Marchers gathering including the local pastor from the Unitarian church.
The student organizers getting things started.
Signs read: No more silence, end gun violence. And Arms are for hugging.
Local high school and college students with their signs.
More of the students gathered on the court house steps.
More student marchers with their signs on the court house steps.
Signs read: I'm not bulletproof.
The students offered a prayer before the march started.
Small children joined the march as well.
A younger participant with a sign asking to be kept safe.
The students also lead the signing of our national anthem.
The primary organizer leading the crowd in their selected chant: No more silence, end gun violence.
Stitched panorama of the crowd gathered at the Aiken county court house.
A marcher's sign reading "Thoughts and prayers are not enough."
The march being lead by local high school students.
Sign read: we need change.
The high school students were closely followed by the smaller children.
The students were followed by their parents, teachers, and other community members.
Group carrying a banner reading "Standing on the side of love"
More parents and other supporters marching with our local students.
March continued to Newberry St for speeches.
The adults listen to the speeches by local students and a few adult supporters.
Students sitting as they listen to friends share their stories and calls to action.
Local state house candidate Elise Fox attended with her family: https://elisefox.net/
Students from USCA spoke as well.
Kids of all ages stayed to watch and listen.
Another student speaking the gathered crowd.
Some dogs came to offer their support as well.
Sign reads: March for our lives
One counter marcher came in her NRA t-shirt calling for more resource officers and arming teachers. She was largely politely ignored.
The march helps bring the concerns of students into focus.
Woman holder her baby with a shirt that reads "Moms demand action."
The dog's collar was tagged "No one more. #enough"
My friend Brenda with her sign asks if your kid next on one side.
And "are my grandsons next" on the other.
Materials to register to vote were on hand for all those eligible and not already registered: https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote
Students from all the local public high schools spoke.
Student shared their concern for the own safety, their teacher's safety, and their frustration at school administrators and politicians who don't support the movement.
The speaker were from several grade levels and represented several races, genders, and economic backgrounds.
Friends were often on hand to provide supportive hugs and words after students shared.
Different messages from different angles, but all concerned with making schools safe again.
Even the dogs needs to listen attentively.
Sign re-defines NRA as "No Rational Argument"
A small child showing a friendly dog some love.
This young man did much of the organizing for the march and the speakers, including sharing his own experiences and understand of legislation pending in South Carolina.
Students spoke their truth as they know it.
When people could no longer stand, they sat and kept listening.
A student Southern Wesleyan University shared about their own experiences and fears for siblings and loved ones.