The week after the March for Our Lives, Riverside, the students were again meeting to “recoup” and plan ahead. They were buoyed by the experience, encouraged by the momentum they felt that Saturday morning. Most them are not novices in the world of political activism. And sadly, not all of them are new to the ravages of gun violence.
Ellen Davies is a survivor of the mass shooting in Las Vegas of October 2017. Currently a sophomore at California Baptist University majoring in political science and international relations, she is writing and blogging about her experiences. When she saw her sister Annie roar into action after the Parkland shooting of February, she offered to help. Annie had been organizing students to meet and plan for a school walkout and for the March for our Lives in Riverside. Ellen offered to help and although she has seen little progress in curbing gun violence, she still thinks the momentum is strong and that voter turnout will be record breaking.
Activism is the streak that runs through these students. Jacob Palaban, who is a senior at Notre Dame High School in Riverside, was visiting the nearby School of the Deaf the week before the march. He wanted input and to invite the students to join the march. He believes the movement has momentum because people are registering, writing and marching. “The next conversation is how we direct this movement.”
Palaban would like to continue promoting youth participation, working for stricter gun laws, banning the AR15. One of his ideas involves approaching the school district, meeting with officials and suggesting that voter registration become an optional part of the civics curriculum.
Ian McPherson began working on the march in mid-February, at first at the home of adult advisors and then at donated space from Planned Parenthood when everyone in the group would gather. He was 6 years old during the Virginia Tech shooting when 33 were killed in a campus massacre, putting into perspective how long students have lived under the threat such violence. However, he thinks that the students have begun a conversation across the nation, in a movement he thinks will continue to work because “the gun lobby’s time will be up in a few months when millions of infuriated Americans go to the polls.”
Robert Jimenez, a junior at Citrus High School, also believes the movement will lead to “so much more.” There is now a national awareness of the issue of gun control and “…has inspired students just like us to speak up and not be silenced.” The group will continue to plan, spread awareness and urge people to vote.
And they are not waiting. Alan Vargas of Centennial High School worked to organize an April 7 Town Hall meeting in Corona. A member of the Centennial High Young Democrats, he views the main issue for discussion is gun control and resisting the influence of the NRA. The primary election will pit three democrats and one independent against the Republican incumbent, Ken Calvert. Vargas supports Julia Peacock, but in the California system of non-partisan primary elections, only the top two vote-getters advance to the November election, regardless of party affiliation.
Photography by Justin Kenward.