The second in a series of planned anti-gun violence rallies in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting will take place Saturday, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to gather in the nation’s capital and cities worldwide.
Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” rallies, part of a nationwide movement advocating for stricter gun control and student activism, will take place in several different locations in Hawaii: On Oahu, in Ala Moana Park, the State Capitol and Kailua; on Maui, at UH Maui College; and at least two spots on both Big Island and Kauai.
The rallies come a little more than a week after students all across the U.S., including Hawaii, participated in a 17-minute walkout during school hours to honor the lives of 17 students and teachers gunned down Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Honolulu March for Our Lives, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature a march that begins at the Hawaii State Capitol, heads down Richards Street and past the Federal Building, then back up Punchbowl Street, before ending at the Capitol.
Sarah Catino, a UH Manoa student organizer, said the purpose behind the march is to encourage youth to “get involved with the democratic process and learn what’s going on,” not only on gun legislation but other issues that may impact them.
“Don’t just be complacent in the fact that your legislator or council person is a Republican or Democrat. Get involved,” she said.
“Contact them, write letters, show up to testify. A lot of people don’t realize the State Capitol is a public building. Anybody can walk in there and have their testimony heard. And you don’t have to be 18.”
A second rally in Honolulu — organized by area high school students — will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. between McCoy Pavilion and Piikoi Street in Ala Moana Park.
Youth March for Our Lives Honolulu will feature speakers and student musicians that represent a cross-section of public, charter and private schools including Farrington, Kalani, Castle, Kaiser and Moanalua high schools as well as Punahou, Iolani, Le Jardin, Assets and Hawaii Technology Academy.
“We want to reach families, all their kids, everybody in general, and show them we’re here and we want to make a change, and this is how we’re doing it,” said Gabriel Fernandes, a sophomore at Moanalua High and one of the organizers.
A March For Our Lives Maui rally starting at 3 p.m. will be followed by a “Concert for Our Lives,” and is expected to draw musicians such as Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
Hawaii’s participation won’t be limited to local rallies. A contingent of area students is currently in Washington, D.C., for the main rally, scheduled to begin at noon Eastern time along Pennsylvania Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the nation’s capital.
Naomi Yuen-Schat, 17, a senior at Maryknoll School, is one of a handful of students who was sponsored by St. Elizabeth and St. Clement churches to go to Washington to participate in the rally.
On Thursday, the students met with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii to discuss gun control.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity to march here in D.C. because we had the opportunity to meet with our representatives and senators of Hawaii and to talk with them about this issue,” said Yuen-Schat, speaking by phone from a double-decker tour bus to view the Washington monuments.
“It’s very important for us to keep pushing for our representatives to get our voices heard.”
The momentum of youth participation that has built up in the wake of the Parkland shooting has shown no signs of slowing in the last month. Another student walkout is planned for April 20, on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Hawaii teachers and advocates emphasized that the movement here is student driven. Many students have spent their spring break this week holding planning meetings, reaching out to potential student speakers and making signs.
“I’m not surprised by the momentum because I know what the youth are capable of,” said Causha Spellman, an advocate with the Domestic Violence Action Center.
“I am surprised in the sense that culturally, this is not something you see on a regular basis in our state,” Spellman added. “I was surprised by the amount of students who felt compelled to do something in spite of the fact they do not have a blueprint for it.”
Several of the student organizers of the Ala Moana event have participated in workshops with Ceeds of Peace, a nonprofit that held its first “youth talk back” dialogues with middle and high students this year. Students in these workshops discuss how to amplify their voice around such issues as mental illness or sleep deprivation.
“We encourage them not to be silent and encourage them to put their voice on a larger platform, even if it’s just Honolulu,” said Ceeds of Peace Executive Director Lisa Taylor.
Saturday’s march around the State Capitol is expected to draw hundreds of people, according to Catino.
“We’re marching Saturday,” she said, “but it’s not over, it’s the beginning.”
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