Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Thousands Denounce Gun Violence At San Diego's 'March For Our Lives'

Students and supporters march for stricter gun laws during the March For Our Lives demonstration in downtown San Diego, March 24, 2018.
KPBS Staff
Students and supporters march for stricter gun laws during the March For Our Lives demonstration in downtown San Diego, March 24, 2018.
Thousands Denounce Gun Violence At San Diego's 'March For Our Lives'
Thousands Denounce Gun Violence At San Diego's 'March For Our Lives' GUEST:Megan Burks, education reporter, KPBS News

>>> It remains to be seen what effect the March for our lives protest will have on our country. But school protesters proved they can have a large turnout for the cause. Here in San Diego it is estimated that about 10,000 people mostly students took part in the downtown March with more marches taking place in Escondido and Encinitas. Education reporter Megan Burks was at the San Diego demonstration and joins us now. Welcome, Meghan. Give us a sense on what the March for our lives protest was like. Where most of the marchers young people? >> It was a good spread. There were a lot of youth OutFront and all of the speakers in the event and all of those leading the march down Harbor Drive for students. There were also a lot of adults there. teachers were there. lot of people who said they have been marching for causes in the 60s and they still have to come out. A good spread. >>> What did some of the sign say ? >> there were a lot of signs saying I should only have to pack a lunch for school not arms. People say I'm educated, I'm angry, I'm going to vote. A lot of signs calling out the NRA. Also a group of signs that caught my eye for some counselors and counseling students from USD and their sign said we are future counselors and here to support you. >>> What did the future counselors have to say about the school shootings in general? Speak -- >> I spoke with Hannah. Let's hear from her. >> I did my thesis on school shootings. The more I learn about school violence shootings, and poor communities in areas less regulated and less protected, I feel more that urgent action is necessary. >> A lot of people turn to that as mental health and turn to that before gun control. Someone who is trained to be a mental health clinician what you say to that? >> That is a red herring. The incidences of African mental illness is 5%. Only 4% of violence is perpetrated our perpetuity by the mentally ill. Mentally ill people are likely to be perpetrating violence. Especially when politicians turn to mental health as the cost but refused to provide mental health funding or support for institutions it is a way to dismiss accountability. The problem is more with the lack of regulation of guns and with our country's problem with masculinity and how we treat boys. >> Reporter: Can you break that down. >> I think we teach boys that they are really only allowed to express anger and that softness is not a Loud. -- Allowed. We bring them with the sense that they are owed things from society. When they are not given those things, they can take things out on that society for doing an injustice. >> That is Hannah Freeman in the clinical health Masters program. >>> This event was sparked by the shooting in Parkland Florida. How is that tragedy remembered at the March. >> With all of these youth speakers, more than a dozen from all over the county. A lot of them took the time to say the names of some of the victims in Parkland. They also said the names of victims of police shooting violence and violence in the streets outside of schools. It's here about that. >> We say no more from Parkland, Chicago, Baltimore, Trevor Vaughan, Felicia, >> Those were students from Patrick Henry high school reading a poem together. >>> Where the marchers here calling for tighter state laws? >> For the most part, they were calling for restrictions at the federal level that marchers across the U.S. for calling four. They were calling to support their cause. There were a list of demands put out online by the youth organizers along with the women's March Organizers. >>> Word about -- what about counter protesters ? >> There was a small amount of counter protesters immensity outside of his truck with the American flag and an NRA flag. There was a guy with the Trump make America great flag and people booed at him and he laughed. I spoke with one counter protester Brad Tyler after the March. >> I said California already has gun-control laws. How much more. That is happening in the state. We have already got the strictest gun control laws in the decade. We have everything on the laundry list being promoted at the national level. We have had the laws for decades. They don't work. We still have mass shootings despite all of the gun-control laws. They don't work. People are pushing gun-control look at evil NRA and the members and say it is your fault. And they pass punitive laws that do no good and save know people. >> Reporter: I hear your account, but surely you don't want kids to get hurt. What do you think is a viable solution? >> One thing that could've certainly worked in the Florida case is if law enforcement did their damn job. Nobody was surprised that this kid was a killer. The school shooter oh yeah everybody New this. There were tips to the FBI. This kid has guns and he's going to hurt himself and he's going to be a school shooter. They do nothing about it. The failure of law enforcement to stop this kid that everyone knew was trouble. It is amazing. Just one of those multiple occasions they had if it was pressed and investigated a bit further. Or he was prosecuted for any of his minor crimes, that would've disqualify fight him for buying a firearm. >> That was Brad Tyler's San Diego resident. He says if we pass stricter gun control laws that the onus is on law enforcement to enforce and taking their attention off people like the Parkland shooter. >>> I begin by saying it remains to be seen with the outcome of the marches will be. Do we know if there any legislation or broader political movements coming out of these marches? >> The Department of Justice issued its pump stock Van that the White House promised. What we are seeing as a mobilizing to get people to vote in the midterm elections. >>> I have been speaking with KPBS education reporter Megan Burks. Thank you, Meghan. >> Thank you.

Thousands Denounce Gun Violence At San Diego's 'March For Our Lives'
Thousands of San Diegans decried gun violence in downtown San Diego as part of the nationwide demonstrations called the "March For Our Lives" by organizers. The protests were planned as a response to the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that killed 17 people.

Thousands of people marched through downtown San Diego and other locations in the region today as part of nationwide demonstrations called the "March For Our Lives" by organizers.

Protesters began assembling in Waterfront Park around 10 a.m. Rallies also took place at Swami's State Beach in Encinitas and Escondido City Hall.

San Diego Police Sgt. Robert Hawkins said officers estimate about 5,000 to 10,000 people took part in the downtown march — close to what organizers were expecting.

Organizers of the nationwide march are calling on politicians to find a solution to gun violence in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died.

Demonstrators in San Diego read the names of each of the Parkland victims to the throngs of people at the downtown march.

An undated map shows the route for San Diego's "March For Our Lives."
An undated map shows the route for San Diego's "March For Our Lives."

Sohini Desai, a UC Berkeley senior who said she was home in San Diego for spring break, was one of the students marching in the rally.

RELATED: San Diego County Students To March For Stricter Gun Laws

Desai said seeing the survivors of the Parkland shooting beginning to advocate against gun violence made her feel like she needed to do something too.

"I think time and time again, we've seen these shootings happen all across the country with varying body counts," she said. "(The Parkland shooting) was a really powerful moment, and like others, it really inspired me, sprung me into action and I was just happy to see that finally, after all of these years, after all of these shootings, there's a culmination and a rising- up that's happening, and I just wanted to be a part of it."

She said the number of people at the march exceeded her expectations.

"I thought that all of us on this side were the totality of who was marching, but then I looked across the street and saw there was another entire group just like us, so it's, I think, thousands more than what I expected," she said.

Nona Golan, a senior at Scripps Ranch High School, also said the shooting in Florida caused her and her friends to become involved with gun control activism.

"We want to help the reform, want to sign some petitions," Golan said. "We all got pre-registered to vote. We want to contribute to the voice. We want to try and make a change."

RELATED: San Diego School Officials, Police Pledge Effort To Combat School Threats

The march comes a little more than a week after thousands of students took part in a national school walkout to advocate for gun restrictions on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting.

Golan said other students at her school were overwhelmingly in support of the walkout.

"On the last walkout we had (on March 14), I think everybody — almost everybody from our school walked out in the center and we had speakers and everybody was very enthusiastic in lending their voice," she said. "It was actually really inspiring."

Several members of the San Diego Education Association — the union representing teachers in the San Diego Unified School District — also marched on Saturday.

"We're out here today to stand with our students," said Lindsay Burningham, the union's president. "Today is a student-led day, in support of ending gun violence and school safety, and we're out here in support of students and I believe that we shouldn't be arming teachers with guns but arming our schools with nurses, counselors, social services."

Mohamed Elnakib, one of the organizers of the march, said Friday that the march was organized by students with the help of local activist groups such as Women's March San Diego

"We are basically calling on our political leaders to advocate and pass legislation that will help keep our students and our community safe," he said.

All kinds of students, from elementary school to college, helped out, Elnakib said.

"We really wanted to make sure that we highlighted and uplifted the student voices because many of the events in San Diego are often organized by community organizations," he said.

"Our students are the future, and our students will be voting very soon," Elnakib said. "If the politicians are not listening to our students, then they will be voting them out."

RELATED: For San Diego Students, School Walkout Is A Warm-Up For The Ballot Box

Demonstrators holding signs at the "March For Our Lives Rally" in downtown San Diego, March 24, 2018.
KPBS Staff
Demonstrators holding signs at the "March For Our Lives Rally" in downtown San Diego, March 24, 2018.

The Trump Administration issued a statement Saturday about the nationwide demonstrations through Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters.

"We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today," Walters said. "Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president's, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence Acts and signed them into law. Additionally, on Friday, the Department of Justice issued the rule to ban bump stocks, following through on the president's commitment to ban devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns."

Thousands Denounce Gun Violence At San Diego's 'March For Our Lives'

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.