Thousands flocked to downtown Nashville Saturday morning for March for Our Lives, and it was students who led the pack, spearheading almost every aspect from logistics to publicity to the speaker lineup.
Children, parents and seniors of all ages carried colorful signs and chanted for an hour straight, as they marched down Union Street.
The opening speaker was march organizer Abby Brafman. She's a freshman at Vanderbilt who graduated from Stoneman Douglas High School, where the high-profile shooting on Valentine's Day took place.
Brafman didn’t intend to plan a march of this magnitude. She created a Facebook event after the shooting for a small group of friends and when she woke up the next morning, it had gone viral. Brafman recruited other Vanderbilt students to organize the Nashville march, joining her high school classmates as part of a national wave of activism.
The Nashville march had a list of three demands: uniform background checks for all firearm sales, funding for gun violence research at the CDC and a minimum age of 21 to purchase semi-automatic weapons.
Watching Brafman speak was Jeni Richard, who works at the front desk of Dan Mills Elementary in East Nashville, where her first grader attends. She says she has come to view every visitor as a potential threat. In some cases, she says, students can organize better than adults and communicate more persuasively to lawmakers.
“Clearly the government and Congress have not been listening to adults,” said Richard. “Young people and students and teenagers know how to organize, they know how to use social media, they know how to use apps that we’ve never heard of. You know what, if they’re going to lead the way I’m going to follow them.”
Fellow organizer and Vanderbilt sophomore Henry Goldberg wants above all for his voice to be heard by lawmakers. He has a younger brother in high school and is scared for his safety.
“We used to do active shooter drills and they would make us go into the classrooms and lock the doors and it was scary,” said Goldberg. “This could have been my brother. It’s terrifying to think about that.”
Mayor Briley attended the event as one of the featured speakers, encouraging citizens to register to vote and to exercise their right. Former Mayor Megan Barry was also seen greeting marchers at the end of the one-mile march.