On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators across the US took to the streets to protest against gun violence, calling for stricter gun measures after a recent slew of mass shootings that have killed hundreds in the past month alone — including the horrifying Uvalde, Texas, school shooting on May 24 that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Over 40,000 people gathered for the March for Our Lives 2022 movement, an organization representative told BuzzFeed News. Educators were among some of the key speakers and protesters at rallies across the nation, as school shootings have become an increasingly recurring tragedy in the country. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the National Education Association said it saw more participation from teachers in this year's rally than in previous years.
“Please arm us with books, resources, and school counselors and not bulletproof vests,” a teacher said while speaking at the Hartford, Connecticut, rally.
Emily Mayer, 29, a middle school teacher who marched in Beaufort, South Carolina, told BuzzFeed News that she felt protesting against gun violence was a necessary step to ensure that her voice was heard.
“Every single day, we have a new headline about [how] gun violence has taken lives out of our communities,” Mayer said. “As a teacher, I consistently wonder which day will be the day my students will be impacted. Politicians continue to ignore the root cause of the problem but are trying to put Band-Aids on the issue.”
In Oxford, Michigan, where a shooter killed four high schoolers in November, social studies teacher Lauren Jasinski spoke to the crowd about how gun violence left a deep mark on the community.
“We must demand more,” Jasinski said. “School needs to be a safe and beautiful place. We wear orange for Hana, Justin, Madisyn, and Tate, but also for the thousands of lives that were forever changed by this tragedy.”
Peter Lynch, 37, a high school teacher in Washington, DC, told BuzzFeed News that his students and fellow teachers are the reasons he went out to march.
“I went to school during Columbine,” Lynch said. “I’ve had students who were shocked by Parkland, became politically active. Now they’re graduating college. It shouldn’t be a generational experience. I’ve also had students traumatized by gun violence in the city, and it’s all become too much. It wouldn’t be right for me to congratulate and encourage them and then stay home.”
Gun violence has become an intrinsic part of American life. In the days prior to the devastating massacre in Uvalde, a shooter killed 10 people inside a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. Churchgoers in Laguna Beach, California, were shot at in the same week. Just this past week, three pedestrians on a Philadelphia street were killed and 11 injured, while another shooter was arrested in Oklahoma for opening fire in a hospital, killing four.
In the wake of the Uvalde Robb Elementary School shooting, people remembered those whose lives were lost at Marjory Stonewall High School, Sandy Hook Elementary, Oxford High School, and Santa Fe High School.
Mayer, the middle school teacher in South Carolina, said that gun violence and the regularity of school shootings have made schools feel unsafe for both students and educators.
“You can tell there’s a heightened sense of concern and alertness,” she told BuzzFeed News. “We’re out for the summer, but that final week, everyone was much more on edge.”
From his classroom, Lynch expressed an admiration for how resilient his students are.
“They are exhausted from all of this, I sense, but they keep going too, and show some deep reservoirs of strength amidst everything going on,” he said. “Which they shouldn’t have to. But they do.”
Many educators at Saturday's protests also fought against the idea of arming teachers — something Republicans and conservatives have frequently proposed in the wake of school shootings.
Mayer told BuzzFeed News that the discussion of providing teachers with guns concerned her as an educator and that it would be a "catastrophic decision."
“I’m extremely concerned that the repercussion of this moment is that the narrative of arming teachers will gain traction and will be acted upon,” she said. “I believe that would be a catastrophic decision and will result in more child trauma and death.”
“I think students and teachers have a range of emotions, from feeling dejected, angry, powerless, through to being empowered, motivated, hopeful, and determined to bring about reform,” said Lynch, the Washington, DC, teacher. “I always have hope that when our young people raise their voices, they have great power to do good.”