More than 300 people on Saturday gathered near the Dan M. Russell Jr. U.S. Courthouse to protest gun violence and to advocate for stricter gun laws. The peaceful protest was part of the worldwide March for Our Lives initiative.
The Gulfport protest comes about six weeks after 17 people were killed during a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
CNN reports there have been 17 school shootings in the U.S. in 2017. The Parkland shooting was on Valentine’s Day — Feb. 14, 2018. On March 15, several Coast students participated in a walkout as a memorial for the people who were killed in Parkland and as a way to advocate for stronger gun control.
Many of those participating in the Gulfport rally carried photos of not only students from Parkland who died from gun violence but other students who had been shot a well as photos of those who were killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016.
“I was going through the bios of the people who were shot and killed at Parkland and at Pulse and at other shootings and it was just overwhelming,” said Laurianne Manchester, one of the event’s organizers. “I was bawling before I was through reading them.”
After a rally in the parking lot adjacent to the federal courthouse, the protesters marched down 15th Street and past Gulfport City Hall before making a turn and heading back to the paring area. Many of the protesters held signs that said things ranging from “Black lives matter” to “Gun control now.
Erin Clemts, 6, of Petal, said she asked her grandmother, Alicia Richards, to bring her to the march. Petal is more than an hour’s drive to Gulfport.
“I want to be safe at my school,” Erin said.
Richards said her choice to participate in the march is not about taking away Second Amendment rights.
“I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away, that’s not why I’m here,” she said. “But I do think we need to be more careful about who gets guns and it’s time for stricter background checks — I’m tired of this being about politics and being a Republican/Democrat thing; this about making the world safer for children like my granddaughter, who deserves to feel safe at her school.”