Fri. Dec 8th, 2023

Written by J.F. – Photography by J.F / TICR Group

The past four years mark a series of historical events for March for Our Lives.

A protestor displaying their homemade sign / J.F. TICR Group

March for Our Lives[1] (MFOL) originated in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 2018 following the politically important Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting[2] in Parkland, Florida resulting in the deaths of 17 students and faculty and injuring an additional 17. MFOL was the product of a political rights movement known as “Never Again MSD[3] (Marjory Stoneman Douglas)” which was founded by three high school students four days following the shooting: Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and Sofie Whitney[4][5][6].

Photograph by Peter Hapak for TIME

Never Again MSD was immediately popularized by the media when the founders and various other members made the cover of Time magazine in April 2018. The main MFOL march took place in Washington, D.C. on March 24th, 2018, and nearly 900 sister events took place around the world. An estimated 1.2 million people attended the march in the United States alone.

Never Again MSD and MFOL are major proponents in the fight for stricter gun laws. Protesters are urging for universal background checks on all gun sales, raising the federal age of gun ownership and possession to 21, [7] closing the “gun show loophole”[8], a restoration of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban[9], and a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines and bump stocks in the United States.[10]

MFOL has been an incredibly powerful movement, mostly because the founding and organization of some of the largest political rallies ever to be held in the United States, were done solely by individuals under 18, children. Some children that are important members of organizing MFOL were survivors of the Parkland High School shooting themselves. One of which is David Hogg, a now 22-year-old survivor of the MSD Parkland, FL shooting who has actively protested and been interviewed by individual members of congress, Oprah Winfrey, and multiple news agencies.

Protestors taking a break from the heat / J.F. TICR Group

Obviously, these organizations and rallies in proponents of stricter gun laws have received backlash. Some of the children’s parents had received death threats saying “Fuck with the NRA and you will be DOA.” The individual that made that threat was subsequently disarmed by local law enforcement shortly after the threats were made.

Two weeks ago, the NRA held its annual conference in Houston, Texas, less than one week after the Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas resulted in the deaths of 19 students and 2 faculty. During the conference, while NRA leaders and politicians like Ted Cruz spoke, hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the building to listen to speakers like David Hogg and politicians like Beto O’Rourke.

Because of the school shooting in Uvalde which followed a supermarket shooting on May 14th, David Hogg and other members of the Never Again MSD activist group organized a short notice, nationwide rally: March for Our Lives 2022 which was held today, June 11th, 2022.

Brady Roland, a 17 year old high school student took the initiative to organize the MFOL rally in Denver, CO. In just 2 weeks, Roland was able to raise over $800 along with other undisclosed amounts directly from Washington D.C.’s MFOL chapter, to fund items in support of the rally, as well as created a Facebook event[11] in which over 700 people responded as “going” or “interested”. The event notes “Absolutely notorious Colorado GVP Activists will be speaking at the event!”. In an interview with KGNU’s Rosanna Longo-Better, Roland states some of those activists include: Tom Mauser, father of Daniel Mauser, a student that died during the Columbine shooting in 1999, Senator Tammy Story[12], a Democratic senator for District 16 whom is currently running for House District 25.

Interview from Rosanna Longo-Better / KGNU Public Affairs

During the interview, Roland states that persons over the age of 18 (specifically Senator Story) were recruited in order to file the required paperwork in order to submit an event permit which is required in order to occupy the Colorado state capitol. There was a permit for a different event called “The People’s Movement”. That permit was removed from the event permit calendar this week and there were no active permits on the calendar for June 11th, 2022.

MFOL 2022 took place in nearly 400 locations across North America and Europe. The rally at Civic Central Park, in Denver, CO, was scheduled to begin at 10am. The morning began mildly humid, calm, and cool which very quickly would become a densely humid and hot day, one of the hottest days in this Denver’s summer. I arrived at roughly 6:30am and walked the entire park prior to any protestors or media outlets would start arriving. Some of the local homeless population were scattered around the park in their own private sleeping areas and as traffic on the surrounding streets started to become more active, they started to wake up and pack their belongings to start the day.

Colorado State Capital / J.F. TICR Group

Since late 2021, Civic Center Park was closed and completely surrounded by temporary pedestrian fences, which were attached to each other at the bottom but not the top. They could be lifted and opened with minimal effort. This closure was in response to health and safety concerns in regard to the park being used by homeless populations and drugs users that would regularly leave used syringes thrown about all over the park. Today, the park appears to be quite clean and pleasantly appealing. There is minimal litter and the grass has been very well maintained. The park was mostly reopened at the beginning of May 2022. There were three designated openings, prior to the organizer’s arrival, and two openings after.

The event organizers arrived around 7:30am at the South entrance and began unloading hundreds of dollars worth of orange merchandise and water coolers, tents, and sound equipment.

Civic Center Park is the location in which a local news station contracted security guard, Matthew Dolhoff, was charged with second degree murder after shooting and killing a protestor following a verbal altercation and the mace being sprayed at Dolhoff and the news agency during the October 10th, 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally.

Brady Roland and other organizers addressing the attendees / J.F. TICR Group

Around 9:30am, individuals began pouring into the park from all directions, the early arrivals helped set up the area surrounding the main stage while others picked spots in the shade to wait for the event to begin. After some successful sound checks and a few cover songs played through the professional sound system, the event began with Brady Roland, the event organizer, inviting the roughly 1,500-2,000 attendees to fill in around the stage as she introduced herself and other speakers, volunteers, and sponsors.

Old and Young Safe from Guns / J.F. TICR Group

I arrived at the Colorado Springs rally around noon, and it was a much different environment than the Denver rally. There were not more than 50 people but they all seemed to be much more passionate than the attendees in Denver. Volunteer attendees took the stage to speak on what they were wanting and the reasoning behind it. There were veterans, parents, and teachers among some of the speakers, all had extremely different experiences and some vocalized extremely different beliefs. The commonality between this small group of strangers was that they were demanding a change in gun ownership.

Counter protestor being blocked by signs / J.F. TICR Group LLC

Across both events, I only witnessed one single counter protestor and they were quickly surrounded and shutdown by multiple protestors. Overhearing parts of the conversations between the counter protestor and the original protestors that approached them, the conversation appeared to be very professional and diplomatic. Voices were not raised and both parties gave each other the time to share their personal beliefs with one another. This changed when bystanders began to become aware of the debate. The counter protestor was instigating protestors by stating that what they are saying is racist in response to statements that white males are to blame for issues relating to gun violence. The counter protestor was quickly outnumbered and immature phrases were thrown out from across the crowd. “I bet he’s a Christian!” and “…It’s because you are a white male.” were some of the phrases. The situation did not escalate past that point and I did not witness the counter protestor have any further conversation with the protestors.

I was personally approached by a few individuals that will remain anonymous, inquiring on who my audience is and what my agenda is. I want to state, TICR Group does not target any specific audience and we have no agenda. We are here to state the facts of real situations. If able, we will always cover both sides of the story and we will never bring our personal opinions into any situation. We are simply recording and documenting stories as they are. We have no bias with or against any party nor their beliefs.

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