Student leaders involved in the national March For Our Lives anti-gun violence movement came to Baltimore for a meeting Monday at the NAACP headquarters timed to coincide with the 53rd anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Conducting a “town hall” discussion live on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the students encouraged voter registration and digital organizing, and called on young people to raise their voices in the coming election.
About 25 students from Parkland, Fla., were among those taking part in the event, as well as some youth leaders from Chicago, New York and Milwaukee.
March For Our Lives is a student-led movement to curb gun violence following the mass shooting in February at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people. About six weeks after the shooting, students organized a rally in Washington, attended by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanding action against gun violence.
After the rally, students organized a “Road to Change” tour involving town hall meetings and voter registration events to get more people to vote. They have visited more than 60 cities in more than 20 states, including Maryland, California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, South Carolina and Texas.
The students’ agenda includes pressing for politicians to stop taking donations from the National Rifle Association; to expand mental health services; toincrease employment opportunities for young people; to expand anti-violence programs, such as Safe Streets; and tighten restrictions of teens’ access to firearms.
Parkland survivor and March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg said in Maryland, where a recent mass shooting at The Capital Gazette killed five people, it’s important for residents to “stand up and fight for any candidate you believe in that will fight to save everyone’s life. We need to work for candidates who will put constituents’ interests over special interests.”
During the “Twitter Town Hall,” youth activist Bria Smith of Milwaukee answered a question about how young people can be more civically engaged by writing: “Trick question: YOUTH HAVE BEEN ENGAGED. We’ve been hungry for change, mobilizing within our communities & hoping to refine policies.”
During a Facebook discussion Smith added: “If you are a person of color and you think you can’t shift the polls, you can. You have that power.”
Student activist Alex King of Chicago tweeted that the Voting Rights Act, approved in 1965 and prohibiting racial discrimination in voting, gives “minorities a voice” and shows “that we are all in this fight together.”
Parkland activist Jammal Lemy told Twitter followers to “Register. Educate. Vote. Its about organizing, having those difficult conversations. Most of all realizing that there is not one track to be political active. You can use all forms of art, you can use your voice. Your voice matters.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.