5 minute read

The loud call and response chants of one group of high-school students at the March for Our Lives in Oklahoma City Saturday seemed to sum up the ideas at work.

“We call! – B.S!”

“Protect kids! – Not guns!”

It was a common theme during the march and rally to challenge the strong influence of the National Rifle Association on both the Oklahoma Legislature and the Congress.

March for our Lives 2018 toward Capitol
The march that stretched over ten blocks made its way to the south plaza of the Oklahoma Capitol (Brett Dickerson)

One sign and chant after another directly challenged what many of the marchers believed to be the out-sized influence of the NRA.

They might have had variations in the degree to which they thought Oklahoma and the U.S. should institute more control of the civilian use of semi-automatic weapons designed for war.

But, their ideas revolved around challenging the NRA’s unbending defense of the sale of war weapons to the public even in the face of repeated school massacres over the last two decades.

Student fear

Katherine, a student at the Oklahoma School for Science and Math not far away from the march site was participating in the chants and march because she feels like “there’s more that we can do and we aren’t doing it.

Even though her group of friends might have been loud, they were a small part of a march that stretched for over ten blocks solid.

March for our Lives 2018 Victoria, Tristin
Victoria (L) and her friend Tristin from Norman North said they live with fear of a school shooting (Brett Dickerson)

Victoria and Tristin from Norman North High School were in the march and told Free Press
“We really want to see a change in our school.”

They said the school wasn’t so much the problem as the fear students are feeling right now.

We asked if they were afraid to attend school.

“Yea, it’s ridiculous that students feel fear when they go to school,” said Victoria.

Tristin said, “I have nightmares about my school getting shot up all the time.”

The march

Marchers stepped off at the Oklahoma County Election Board at 4201 N. Lincoln Boulevard and headed south toward the Oklahoma Capitol.

March for our Lives 2018 Marchers
The march stretched over ten blocks along N. Lincoln Blvd (Brett Dickerson)

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol detachment that covers the Oklahoma Capitol and grounds provided escort and traffic control as the group moved south down Lincoln Boulevard and around to the south plaza of the Capitol Building.

At one point the march was over ten blocks long and one lane wide along the boulevard.

Once all there, marchers filled the entire plaza area to the street.

ACLU legal observers estimated the crowd to be at 3,500.

Youth-led rally

A committee made up of high-school youth planned the event and most of the speakers at the rally were youth.

March for our Lives 2018 Linbaugh
James Linbaugh, one of the youth leaders of the event: “Make every day count….” (Brett Dickerson)

And those students brought strong, thoughtful and passionate arguments for holding Oklahoma Legislators, U.S. representatives, and senators accountable for their suspected compliance with NRA wishes to not introduce any kind of new gun control.

One of the organizers, James Linbaugh was direct in his condemnation of what he considered to be Oklahoma Legislators who will not listen to the majority of their constituents.

He encouraged all youth present to make sure they register to vote and then vote when the time comes to do so.

His conclusion would have sounded overly sunny had it not been for the lethal environment youth find themselves in at present.

“Make every day count and let your passion drive you every day,” said Linbaugh.

“Sense of unity”

Ravi Patel, a senior at South Moore High School, delivered what some could say was a barn-burner of a speech.

March for our Lives 2018 Patel
Ravi Patel gave a rousing speech that encouraged youth to vote out those who “ignore” and “disregard” the wishes of voters. (Brett Dickerson)

“I’m irritated, sick and frankly tired by the consistent apathy being portrayed by our legislators behind us and on Capitol Hill,” shouted Patel.

He said that the “sense of unity” exhibited by youth there today is “dreaded by our Legislators” who have been ignoring them and disregarding their views.

“The time for inaction is up because inaction is inadequate. And the time for ignorance is up because ignorance is infectious,” said Patel.

He delivered what was perhaps the most passionate statement of the rally:

How many deaths will it take to realize that something must be done? How much blood must stain the very soil of this nation before our legislators act? How many deaths will it take before we understand that a weapon with a word assault in front of it doesn’t belong in the streets, let alone a high school?

At this statement, the crowd erupted into loud shouts and applause.

And then, he summed up the theme of what students said to us throughout the march and rally.

“How many tears and cries will it take before our legislators understand that an individual’s Second Amendment right does not outweigh my right to live?”

March for our Lives 2018 Patel to rally
Ravi Patel delivers one of the strongest speeches to the crowd urging voter action. (Brett Dickerson)

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