Hundreds of people gathered at the corner of South Pulaski Street and West Capitol Avenue in Little Rock on Saturday to join the March for Our Lives.
Little Rock was one of over 800 cities that took part in the international movement this weekend that included an estimated one million participants. The march in Little Rock was organized by March for Our Lives, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.
McKenzie Carson and Huxley Richardson, the two students who organized the Fayetteville High School National Walkout of about 400 students and other members of their community on March 14, lead the march up the Capitol steps. Carson, a sophomore at Fayetteville High said they made the trek to Little Rock to show solidarity with other students across the state.
Both students said that the school board for their district agreed with the walkout and assisted the students in making it successful. The students said it wasn’t the school districts they were protesting.
“I think that it’s better that the schools were on board, because it’s not the schools that we’re against, we’re against the government and the laws and how the laws don’t play into our safety at school.”
The march began at 10:30 a.m., followed by a rally on the Capitol steps that lasted an hour. The crowd listened to several speakers from Students Demand Action, and Eve Jorgensen, representing Moms Demand Action.
“We shouldn’t have to be scared,” Jorgensen said. “We should feel secure sending our children to school. Schools are supposed to be sanctuaries where young people learn and grow. We demand action from our leaders, not just thoughts and prayers.”
Erin Farmer, a Senior and the student body president at Little Rock Central High School also spoke at the rally.
“We need each of you to hear our perspective on things that pertain to us. Stand behind us when we say that we want to be safe at school, hanging out with our friends, and simply doing things that kids do,” Farmer said.
After a brief interruption from a pro-2nd amendment counter-protester, demonstrators heard from students Madeleine Amox from Bethel Middle School, Garrett Coyle from Searcy schools and Wylie Greer from Greenbriar High School.
Greer organized Greenbrier High’s walkout for National School Walkout Day on March 14, with just two other students. According to Greer, the school did not support the walkout, and all three students were punished for cutting class. The students were offered two days of in-school suspension or two hits with a paddle; Greer chose the corporal punishment.
“They said it would be different after Sandy Hook and it wasn’t. They said it would be different after Charleston,” Greer said, during his speech. “They said it would be different after Pulse, after Las Vegas, and they said it would be different this time. I wanted to believe them, but something in me wanted to push away hope to prevent the inevitable disappointment.”
Closing statements were made by the march organizer, Chris Kingsby, who gave a call to action.
“We will continue to stand up and make our voice heard until our elected officials understand that we here in Arkansas believe that the laws of our students, our parents, our teachers, our community members are more important than NRA ratings and NRA contributions,” Kingsby said.
Among the crowd were notable lawmakers and candidates for the midterm elections, such as Senator Joyce Elliot, and 2nd Congressional District candidates Gwen Combs and Jonathan Dunkley.
“I’m out here to support the young people. I’m not here to ban guns but common sense gun laws are needed,” said Dunkley.
The rally ended at approximately 11:30 with an invitation for marchers to attend an after-party at Stickyz in Downtown Little Rock. The next National School Walkout is scheduled for April 20, 2018, on the 20th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.