Students led a gun control protest in downtown Redwood City on Saturday morning, one of several taking place around the Bay Area and more than 450 nationwide as part of the March For Our Lives movement.
Students Kaaya Minocha, Lily Arangio, Nicholas Kwok and Christopher Kwok, all of whom have been involved in March For Our Lives since its inception after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, organized and led the event in Redwood City.
"This movement stands with the masses," organizer Nicholas Kwok of Sequoia High School said in an interview. "We're rallying up our local area in support of Washington to create federal changes. We have states changing, but we need big federal change to prevent massacres in our schools."
Chanting "What are we marching for? Our lives!" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go," marchers made their way through downtown Redwood City as passing cars honked in encouragement.
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"We're here to support the cause and stand for what's right. We want to be safe in our schools. Both our moms are teachers, which makes this even more important to us," Woodside High School students Chloe Nangle and Julia Lopez said.
Teenagers were also joined by young parents, teachers, and the elderly.
Emily Weaver, pushing her 2-year-old son in a stroller at the march, said she ditched a family day trip to attend the protest.
"I shouldn't have to fear for my child's safety when they're at school. I can't believe that I live in country where this is OK and our politicians don't do anything to stop it. It's been going on since I was kid, and it's got to stop," Weaver said in tears.
Another mother, Sapna Singh, who attended the march with her son, felt emotional at the march.
"I don't want to start crying. This is just too much. But seeing so many people here, at least we are not alone," Singh said.
Marchers returned outside the Redwood City Public Library for music, poetry, and speeches from community members. Sequoia High School teacher Justine Rutigliano kicked off the speeches, urging marchers to rethink gun control.
"In the words of political commentator Van Jones, we have to reframe the issue. It is not pro-gun versus anti-gun, it should be responsible gun owners against irresponsible gun interests," Rutigliano said.
San Carlos Mayor Sara McDowell advocated for all cities of San Mateo County to follow in the footsteps of San Carlos and Redwood City and adopt safe storage ordinances, which require all guns stored at home be kept in a locked container or disabled by a trigger lock.
"According to my sources, the cities that do not have a safe storage ordinance yet [in San Mateo County] are Daly City, Pacifica, Atherton, Woodside, East Palo Alto, and Half Moon Bay," McDowell said. "So if you live in any of those cities, or even if you don't, now is the time to advocate for a safe storage ordinance in those cities."
Mishaal Hussain, a recent graduate of Gunn High School, delivered a rousing speech to the crowd, lambasting Republicans in the U.S. Senate for refusing to act in the face of tragedy.
"If you are a government official who believes that your job is not to respond to tragedy with policy, that there is no use for you to do your jobs of legislating because laws are useless, that American cannot improve itself -- get out of your office and make room for someone who actually believes in government!" Hussain said.
Adults at the march praised students for taking the lead on gun control, emphasizing their faith in the next generation of community leaders.
But Stacey Ashlund, a volunteer member of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement advocating for public safety measures that protect people from gun violence, said that there is a role for adult leadership too.
"I love that there's student involvement, but I also know that they are just kids. It shouldn't be their responsibility and that's why I'm here. Kids should be enjoying their lives, and it's our problem as adults to keep on our senators until something changes," Ashlund said.
But 17-year-old student organizer Lily Arangio of St. Francis High School, who has been involved in March For Our Lives since she was 13, said that she is more determined than ever to channel her energy into changing America's gun laws.
"When it comes to gun violence, we know that it's easy for the pain we feel to transform into hopelessness and numbness, but together we can make the change that needs to be made and we can take on the NRA and other lobbyists," Arangio said.
On Saturday evening, more than 250 people marched through downtown Mountain View for their March For Our Lives rally.
Khushi Nigam, founder of “Young and Loud” organized the Mountain View rally along with the “Raging Grannies.”
She said after watching the horrific shooting in Uvalde, Texas, she realized young people need to do more.
“It’s these scary instances that remind us that going to school shouldn’t be a death sentence,” Nigam said.
Nigam is pushing for implementing universal background checks on people purchasing guns.
While Mountain View City Councilmember Sally Lieber encouraged people to start pushing their local governments to implement new restrictions.
“I’d like to see every city use its zoning power to restrict areas, where gun purchases can take place id like every city to require insurance on gun owners,” she said.
The City of San Jose already requires gun owners to have liability insurance and was the the first in the nation to pass the law.
Other March For Our Lives protests planned around the Bay Area on Saturday included ones in San Francisco, Oakland, Redwood City, Walnut Creek, Benicia, Burlingame, Pacifica, and Sonoma.