Hundreds of people gathered for the March For Our Lives rally in LeBauer Park in downtown Greensboro on Wednesday evening. The event was the only stop the national tour had planned in the state. Supporters wearing red shirts that read, “Moms Demand Action,” stood next to quiet dissenters donning red Make America Great Again hats.
Most of the crowd was made up of college kids, teenagers and moms and dads with kids who had come to support the movement that was born out of the Parkland massacre earlier this year.
Some had come from down the street while others had traveled across the country.
Eternity Rodriguez, a 16-year-old who had driven with her family from Toledo, Ohio, held a sign listing questions collected from students at her high school.
“Will my family have to deal with losing a daughter?”
“Will my friends have to deal with the guilt of surviving?”
“Am I next?”
Rodriguez, who traveled to Parkland, Fla., shortly after the shooting in February, said she became moved to speak out after meeting the students affected.
“We have a right to feel safe in our own schools,” Rodriguez said. “I’m here representing my state.”
The rally’s speakers echoed Rodriguez’s frustrations and concerns as high school students.
Sara Jado, one of the first speakers at the event, graduated from Grimsley High School in June and organized several walkouts on campus to protest gun violence last school year. She emphasized the need to not only talk about gun safety in schools, but to shed light on other marginalized groups who face gun violence like the hundreds of black men and women killed by police.
“I did it for all of the people who are now hashtags,” Jado said. “We need justice now.”
As she spoke, she encouraged the crowd, which had grown to about 200 people, to repeat after her.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” she said. “It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
A small group of attendees wearing black shirts that read, “Utah Gun Exchange,” stood to the right of the stage. Josh Rowley, one of the staff members of the exchange, described their business as a sort of online marketplace like Craigslist where users could buy and sell guns. The company also owns an online video-sharing site called Ugetube for gun enthusiasts as an alternative to YouTube. He said that they had been following the March For Our Lives tour for about a month now.
“We’re here to promote our company,” Rowley said. “We don’t agree with most of what they have to say except for tragedy prevention.”
According to Rowley, the company also advocates for arming teachers and students to prevent tragedies like the Parkland shooting.
“We’re proponents of the Second Amendment and don’t believe in any bans,” Rowley said.
A few feet away, a man held a sign that read, “Keep your guns out of my classroom.”
Nearby, a woman stood with a group of preteen boys.
Debbie Layman, who drove from Winston-Salem with her son and two of his friends, said she’s called state senators to advocate for gun control. Her latest call was this morning in reaction to the most recent update to the controversy surrounding gun control: 3D-printed guns.
“I called them to tell them it’s ridiculous,” Layman said. “We’ve gotta be able to protect our kids.”
Her 12-year-old son, Christopher, a student at Hanes Middle School, encouraged his mom to call every day.
More students took to the stage and pleaded with the crowd, asking them to vote in November and make change.
“Why do I, at 15, have to tell the government to do their job?” asked one. “It’s time to take a stand; it’s time to create change.”
And as the event came to a close, the clouds opened up and rain began to pour. The students packed up their van, many still too young to drive, and prepared for the next stop on their tour.