Students rally for gun reform in cities across the US

WASHINGTON (AP) — Student survivors of the Florida school massacre anchored a massive rally against gun violence Saturday in Washington, D.C., while throngs of other young people took to the streets in sister marches across the U.S. Some students also took part in counter protests in places like Salt Lake City and Helena, Montana.

Here’s a look at what some of the demonstrators had to say:

ZOE BONNER, 16

Bonner (AP Photo/Josh Replogle)

SCHOOL: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

MARCHED IN: Washington, D.C.

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here today because it happened to our school, and it shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t have happened anywhere, and we feel like it’s time to make change and get gun reform.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “Banning military-style weapons and more protections for our schools.”

WHAT DID YOU EXPERIENCE DURING THE FEB. 14 SHOOTING AT YOUR SCHOOL? “At first nobody really knew what it was because the fire drill had went off. So most people were going out for the fire drill, and then people heard the code red, but some people heard it too late. So it was just a lot of confusion. And then after, it was just mostly shock hearing how many people died and how quickly it happened.”

BEN STEWART, 17

Stewart (AP Photo/Ben Nadler)

SCHOOL: Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw, Georgia

MARCHED IN: Atlanta

WHY ATTEND? “People have been dying since 1999 in Columbine, and nothing has changed. People are still dying. Columbine isn’t even on the top 10 list of mass shootings in America. Something needs to change.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I’d like to see commonsense gun laws introduced. It would be preferable if there was a semi-automatic rifle ban. … If you look at … school shootings, the majority of them are with legally purchased weapons. So yeah, criminals will get weapons, but you could still do something. It’s better than doing nothing.”

CECILIA MCCOY, 17

McCoy (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

SCHOOL: Assumption High School in Louisville, Kentucky

MARCHED IN: Washington, D.C.

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here for the students, for gun control — honestly just for everyone. This is not just for students. Everywhere you go, there is a threat of guns.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “Stricter gun laws and to get rid of assault rifles.”

HAVE YOU BEEN AT SCHOOL WHEN THERE WAS A SHOOTING OR OTHER TYPE OF GUN THREAT? “In Kentucky, there have been multiple school threats. In Marshall County, there was one. I wasn’t there, but I knew people that go there, so it did affect home.”

BRAXTON SHEWALTER, 17

Shewalter (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

SCHOOL: Columbia Falls High School in Columbia Falls, Montana

RALLIEDIN: Helena, Montana, at a pro-gun event

WHY ATTEND? “We are here to advocate for the Second Amendment. We are here for the millions of responsible gun owners in the United States and around the world. … I’ve been an NRA member since I was little. … That’s just kind of our way of life down here, to own a gun. Almost everyone has one. … Our voices deserve to be heard too.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “Anyone can have their own opinion. I believe that everybody has their own right to go out for what they believe in. But all we’re trying to do is advocate and show there are, you know, responsible gun owner in the United States. There’s 320 million people in the United States. One mass shooting happens, and they think that everyone in the U.S. in some way has to be held accountable for it.”

BROOKE SOLOMON, 15

Solomon (AP Photo/Ed White)

SCHOOL: Cass Technical High School in Detroit

MARCHED IN: Detroit

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here today marching for the thousands of under-represented black and brown kids, especially in Detroit. I just want to see change.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I’m looking for tougher gun laws and legislation that includes banning semi-automatic and assault weapons, that includes background checks for all gun sales and gun restraining orders.”

CHARLIE SHEBS, 16

Shebs (AP Photo/Josh Replogle)

SCHOOL: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

MARCHED IN: Washington, D.C.

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here because previous generations couldn’t do what we’re doing right now. And we want to make this time the last time. So if that means marching all over the world, then I want to be a part of it.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I want to see safer schools. I don’t want to hear that kids don’t feel safe at schools. … I want to see change in gun laws, and I want to see control. We’re giving it to people who, it’s just not safe. There’s no other way to put it, really.”

WHAT DID YOU EXPERIENCE DURING THE FEB. 14 SHOOTING AT YOUR SCHOOL? “The shots just kept coming and coming. And I thought it was still a drill because they said we were going to have a drill, and then everyone started screaming along with the shots. And I was locked in the classroom on top of a printer for a good hour and a half. (When we were able to leave), I saw bodies everywhere, and there were just splatters on the wall. They actually told us to put our heads down and hands on the people’s shoulders in front of us, and it was very hard not to look around at the bullet holes in the wall. The only way to get out of the building was to step in blood and over bodies.”

MAYA MCENTYRE, 15

McEntyre (AP Photo/Ed White)

SCHOOL: Northville High School in Northville, Michigan

MARCHED IN: Detroit

WHY ATTEND? “I’m really tired of being afraid at school. When I come to school, I don’t want to have to look for the nearest exit.”

HAVE YOU BEEN AT SCHOOL WHEN THERE WAS A SHOOTING OR OTHER TYPE OF GUN THREAT? “My school hasn’t had any threats that I know of. … I don’t want to have a problem like that. I want to get to the problem before it gets to me.”

GRACE BENDER, 17

Bender (AP Photo/Matt Volz)

SCHOOL: Capital High School in Helena, Montana

MARCHED IN: Helena, Montana

WHY ATTEND? “My family are all gun owners, and I’ve been around guns my whole life. And I think that it’s absolutely necessary for people who own guns who are responsible gun owners to also be advocating for this because I don’t think there are two sides. I think that if you want to find solutions, you can do that really easily.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I don’t want to wake up to another headline that says 20 kids died in a school shooting. I don’t want people like the Parkland shooter to be able to get access to guns like he did. I just want to feel safe in schools. I don’t want to have to keep doing shooter drills. That’s what I want to see change, really.”

CESAR ALVARADO, 18

Alvarado (AP Photo/Krysta Fauria)

SCHOOL: Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California

MARCHED IN: Los Angeles

WHY ATTEND? “I am marching for those whose voices have been silenced.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “More gun control in areas that don’t have it and banning of assault rifles.”

HAVE YOU BEEN AT SCHOOL WHEN THERE WAS A SHOOTING OR OTHER TYPE OF GUN THREAT? “I have not, but I can sympathize for those who have, and it’s just sad to see people’s hearts have been broken (because of) gun violence.”

TALIA RUMSKY, 16

Rumsky (AP Photo/Josh Replogle)

SCHOOL: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

MARCHED IN: Washington, D.C.

WHY ATTEND? “Because we keep chanting, ‘Never again,’ ‘Enough is enough,’ ‘Never again.’ But it’s already happened again. It happened in Maryland. There was a shooting in (Napa County, California). So I’m really here to make sure we can make our voices heard; so people are empowered to make sure we vote in legislators so this doesn’t happen again; so we can avenge those who were stolen from us because someone thought it was OK to own weapons of mass destruction.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I definitely want people to vote in new legislators that will help us pass bills that will include banning high-capacity magazines, banning certain semi and automatic assault rifles — and not just focusing on school safety but focusing in on gun violence as a whole.”

ADRIAN MAYAN, 13

Mayan (AP Photo/Krysta Fauria)

SCHOOL: Sacred Heart Academy in Redlands, California

MARCHED IN: Los Angeles

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here to represent the people who died in the several shootings that happened recently, and I’m here to represent those who can’t be here and to make changes in the government.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I hope many government officials are able to open their eyes to change gun laws in this country.”

KAYLA RENERT, 15

Renert (AP Photo/Josh Replogle)

SCHOOL: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

MARCHING IN: Washington, D.C.

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here because I look at the younger kids and I look at the future generations, and I just never want them to have to go through what we went through and to experience what we saw and what we heard.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “Better gun laws and legislators voted into office that will actually do something about it and not just tell us, ‘What you guys are doing is not going to do anything. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not going for (re-election).’ We want people that actually care.”

WHAT DID YOU EXPERIENCE DURING THE FEB. 14 SHOOTING AT YOUR SCHOOL? “I remember getting a phone call from one of my best friends. She was in a closet. … And I just remember her crying hysterically to me, and at that moment, I was heartbroken. I got a picture of one of my good friends. She was shot in the leg. Just seeing it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It didn’t feel real.”

ZOE LOPEZ, 15

Lopez (AP Photo/Krysta Fauria)

SCHOOL: Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California

MARCHED IN: Los Angeles

WHY ATTEND? “I’m here because the people who died are the same age as me, and it’s really important also because of my school, because we were supposed to have a walkout last Wednesday, and someone threatened our school so nobody showed up. And this Friday we had another one, and it was a big turnout. It was really great. And basically, my mom is a teacher, and I’m just always scared for her. … I’m here to just spread awareness.”

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE CHANGE AS A RESULT? “I hope to have more regulations on guns so that people like (Florida school shooting suspect) Nikolas Cruz aren’t able to acquire them.”

HAVE YOU BEEN AT SCHOOL WHEN THERE WAS A SHOOTING OR OTHER TYPE OF GUN THREAT? “We did get a threat, and there were arrests made, and it was really scary. All my friends were freaking out. It was a horrible, horrible experience, and nothing even happened. Just the fear itself was, like, awful.”