Saturday morning dawned in downtown Raleigh with biting cold and the sound of shrill whistles as some ten thousand protesters, bundled up against the wind, crowded together on the 400 block of Fayetteville Street. Holding brightly colored signs that declared “Fear Has No Place in School” and “We Deserve Better,” the crowd waited to begin its advance from City Plaza to Halifax Mall, the scheduled site for the rally to follow the Raleigh March for Our Lives. (A few hours later, several thousand more demonstrators would gather at CCB Plaza in Durham.)
Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed seventeen lives on Valentine’s Day, Saturday’s protest was one of many that took place across the world, including a massive rally in Washington, D.C., that drew upward of eight hundred thousand people.
Led by its two high school student organizers, Amber Mitchell and Lauren Smith, the Raleigh march wound through nearly a mile downtown with protesters chanting condemnations of gun violence, the NRA, and spineless lawmakers who do the bidding of their gun-lobby masters. (Hey there, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.)
Mitchell and Smith said they were blown away the response from the Triangle.
“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “I never thought that there would be this many people here, and I just can’t believe it.”