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Thousands of Students March on Atlanta Streets to Protest School Gun Violence

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As Atlanta students headed back to class Monday, many were still reflecting on the thousands of metro-Atlanta-area teens who raised their voices Saturday to protest school shootings and call for gun control in America. On Saturday, VOX ATL went to the March for Our Lives protest in downtown Atlanta, a student-led response to the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students throughout the country gathered on March 24 to protest gun violence in America. VOX talked to student protesters to see what motivated them to come and how they think their voice will have an impact on the country.

All of the students interviewed had strong feelings about gun control in America. Kelly Pereza, 17, said, “I am here to stand up for everyone who has died in mass shootings.” Her sign read: “The most gun control we have is Apple replacing the gun emoji with a water gun.” When asked what she’d say to Congress, Pereza said she’d ask for more gun control for those with mental illness.

Protesters were not only marching to protect themselves now but in the future as well. Walker, 13, who attends Wesley International Academy, said even though a lot of protesters are young, their voices still matter. “We’re the kids; we’re the future,” he said. This belief was shared among many other protesters. Instead of just being kids, they want a voice because the laws that are put in place now will affect their futures.

Students in attendance seemed eager to get their message to politicians in Georgia and the rest of the country. Some of Georgia’s influential politicians, including Congressman and civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis attended. He declared he was proud of his “F” rating from the National Rifle Association. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also spoke at the rally outside the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

March For Our Lives participants march toward the Georgia state capitol on Saturday, March 24 in downtown Atlanta.

Trinity Dixon, 17, who attends Brookwood High School, said she came to protest because of politicians she views as unhelpful. “It seems like the politicians in our capitol building and even state legislatures value the blood money from the NRA over the lives of students. I’m here because I want safety for my school.” She added: “This demonstration just shows to legislators that we have a voice, and we’re not gonna stop until we get what we want.”

Students like Varoon, a 13-year-old Atlanta resident, are tired of coming to school in fear. “I’m scared about my life everyday, and I just want to change that,” he said.

Grady High School student Alex Opsahl, 18, said: “At our school, we’ve actually had a lot of issues of gun violence. There’s been multiple instances that have personally affected us.”  In 2013, one student brought a pink gun to Grady High School. She accidentally shot herself and had to be taken to Grady Hospital.

As the march was coming to an end Saturday afternoon, Simon Spencer, 14, said he felt the march showed politicians how gun legislation in America should change. “This has opened a lot of eyes to a lot of politicians, because they see how much people truly do care about this and how much we want [gun laws] to change.”

Terell is a 15-year-old freshman at Walnut Grove High School. He is a teen staffer for VOX Teen Communications and a student columnist for the Walton Tribune.

Photos by Terell Wright/VOX staff

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