Photos by Connie Martinez

Students who were warned not to participate in school walk outs, were able to make up for it when they joined tens of thousands who “Marched for their Lives” in downtown Los Angeles, on Saturday, March 24.  Students from valley high schools and colleges joined the masses of people who crowded into the area around city hall carrying banners and signs that read, “Protect Kids Not Guns.”  One student carried a sign that read, I should be studying for my AP test, not marching for my life.”  The L.A. march was one of hundreds that took place across the country and around the world.  

One valley student, 12-year-old, Isabelle, who traveled downtown with her pregnant mother and her sister, stood in the street holding a hand-drawn sign reading “Am I

Next?”  She said she would like to go to her school in Woodland Hills and “not be scared.”

A smaller group of gun rights advocates stood behind seven Los Angeles Police Department officers in front of LAPD Headquarters at the corner of Spring Street and First Avenue with signs defending the Second Amendment and a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. Others held posters festooned with images of guns sprinkled with glitter and labeled Trump .45.

The group of counter-demonstrators remained small with roughly a dozen people carrying American flags outnumbered by LAPD officers separating them from the larger group marching against gun violence.

A gun rights advocate with a megaphone said he represented the United States of America and identified himself as Bassad Pesci. He kept up a constant stream of argument, calling the marchers “a bunch of crybabies … you are the cowards.”

The NRA responded to Saturday’s marches with a post on Facebook.

“Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous,” the post read. “Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”

Those against gun violence countered with a chant of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go.”

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the crowd in a call and response: “Whose streets?” he asked, and the crowd roared “Our streets.”

“Whose Lives?” “Our Lives!” “Whose nation?” “Our nation!”

The mayor welcomed “our leaders, the students who are here today” and told them “today will be written in the history books that your children will read.”  Garcetti pointed to California’s bans on assault rifles, bump stocks and waiting periods on gun sales as a model for federal legislation and closed with a message for President Donald Trump.

“Get with the program Mr. President, or get the hell out of the way.”      

A student named Mia, who said she lost her brother to gun violence in

2016, called on politicians to pass “common sense gun laws” and said, “If they don’t, I will vote for someone who will.”

Other students said they were pre-registering to vote when they turn

18, and one organizer drew some of the loudest applause from the stage after

leading the crowd in shouting, “Vote them out! Vote them out!”

Rev. Anderson, a represent-ative from the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, stood

with other faith leaders on the podium and asked marchers to look beyond school

shootings to everyday violence in cities across the country.    

“Raise your voice … until children in Watts and Chicago get as much attention as children in Parkland and Columbine,” Anderson said to loud applause. 

The reverend told politicians to stop using the words of God in the wake of gun violence when “your fingers are on the trigger as well.”    

The March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and its affiliated marches around the world that numbered more than 840, were organized or inspired by some of the student survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 people dead on Feb.14. The carnage was allegedly carried out by a 19-year-old former student who legally purchased an assault rifle.