McALLEN — More than 300 area residents here participated in the nationwide March for Our Lives movement Saturday morning, pleading for “not one more” and to “protect children not guns.”
The local march was organized by high school students Valeria Arguelles, 16, and Andrea Ramirez, 17, both juniors at Lamar Academy, who captured the attention of not only their classmates and teachers but hundreds of others in the community who gathered in support.
Together, students, parents and other supporters held signs and joined in the chant, echoing cries for “enough is enough,” as they marched through the streets of McAllen.
Such was the scene across many American cities largely in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed and as many injured on Valentine’s Day. The suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, is facing murder and attempted murder charges in what’s been referred to as one of the deadliest School massacres in United States history.
Survivors of the shooting led in planning the rallies.
“After getting news of the Parkland (Florida) shooting and seeing so much emotion … just seeing how the students were so hurt but at the same time so moved to stand up and fight for themselves inspired us,” Arguelles said. “We decided to do the same thing because we wanted to do it for our own classmates to make sure they are secure in school.”
Locally, the students reached out to two of their teachers for help organizing the event, which they shared on Facebook and — as of Saturday — gathered nearly 500 responses from people either committing to attend or expressing interest.
“I’ve been teaching for 23 years, so I have been a teacher since Columbine, and I remember that experience and I’ve watched generations go through the fear of this whole idea,” said Rachelle Downey, English teacher at Lamar Academy who helped the students organize the march. “So to see my students want to take action and realize that they are part of the solution is a tremendous feeling.”
Her hope, Downey said, is for all students, including those who were not present, to understand that they have a voice in this country and to realize the importance of being involved in the community.
Across the country, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators protested the inaction of politicians on gun control.
In McAllen, some parents marched along with their children in support of the cause.
“I want them to see that they matter and that they can make a change,” said Sylvia Vega, a mother of five who marched along with her children and husband. “It’s a feeling of terror and a feeling of betrayal for them because they should be enjoying their childhood and not be afraid of something as simple as getting an education.”
As the marchers passed by homes, businesses and through busy streets on their way to and from McAllen City Hall, people walked outside or peeked out from balconies as they heard the mainly young voices demanding action. Arguelles hopes such curiosity helps inspire people to join the cause for the sake of their loved ones.
“This is for them,” she said. “This is for their children, for them to be able to learn and cultivate intellect without having to have fear of someone coming and shooting up their school.”