RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hundreds of people, including students and gun control supporters, gathered in downtown Richmond on Friday to rally against gun violence.
This Richmond event is part of a larger event called National School Walkout, which falls on the anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two students opened fire in 1999, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher.
The national event was organized by 16-year-old Lane Murdock, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, along with three of her classmates.
Police initially expected as many as 10,000 people to participate in the local demonstration, but that number turned out to be much lower. Roughly 300-400 showed up to the pre-rally event at Brown’s Island, but they all shared their powerful message favoring gun control to deter violence in schools.
“As young people especially as students, it is our responsibility as the next generation that can vote either this year or in the coming years, to fight to make a change,” Ariela Press, a student at Freeman High School, said. “To fight for better background checks and to make sure that we feel safe and comfortable and our learning environment.”
“As young people especially as students, it is our responsibility as the next generation that can vote either this year or in the coming years, to fight to make a change.”
From Brown’s Island, the participants marched through downtown Richmond to the Virginia State Capitol to have their collective voices heard in front of lawmakers like Gov. Ralph Northam and Chris Hurst, the fiance of Alison Parker — the journalist shot and killed on live television.
“I can’t think of anything you could be learning right now that is more important than the incredible power and responsibility that you have to stay in this fight,” Northam told the crowd.
Other state leaders, including Attorney General Mark Herring and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, called the demonstration ‘inspiring,’ and said this group ‘is going to change the world.’
Friday’s rally was organized by a group of Henrico County students who are a part of a larger student-led movement called #NeverAgain.
The teenage organizers hope the event will empower students to continue their momentum in a push for gun reform.
“I don’t want to be here, I shouldn’t be here,” Maxwell Nardi, one of the Richmond organizers, told 8News reporter Talya Cunningham. “I shouldn’t be in front of this camera having this conversation with you, but for some reason, I am, and that’s because our politicians and our leaders refuse to act, so we’re going to force them to.”
Local police assisted in guiding the large crowd through downtown and to Capitol Square.
“The local organizers have been excellent about not only meeting with us, but about doing all they can to work with us to help facilitate a smooth rally,” Col. Anthony S. Pike, chief of the Virginia Capitol Police, said. “Along with the Richmond Police Department and our other partners, we are committed to providing a safe environment for these folks to express their freedom of speech.”