‘Am I Next?’: Students Protest Gun Violence at March for Our Lives

Two hundred Andover students marched in Boston in the nationwide March for Our Lives protest last Saturday. According to “The Boston Globe,” protest organizers estimated that 100,000 people participated in the Boston march, one of over 800 that took place globally.

This movement for gun control reform is spearheaded by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting on February 14.

“I decided to go to the march for two main reasons: one, because I’m a big supporter of regulating the sale of automatic assault and semiautomatic assault weapons; and two, friends of mine died during the Parkland shooting, so I really wanted to honor them and their memories.” said Megan Vaz ’21, a participant.

“People of all over the Boston area of all different identities [attended the event], and it was really inspiring and empowering both to see all the Andover students get really impassioned and people from the local community,” said Clarisa Merkatz ’19, who organized buses from Andover to the march.

In Boston, students walked 2.5 miles from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School to Boston Common, where speeches and performances were held. Student participants were encouraged to come to the front of the crowd near the stage, and to cheer and express themselves during the speeches and performances.

Many students appreciated the energy shared by the student leaders and marchers. Mariana Kovalik ’20 expressed surprise at the unity she felt during the march.

“Once you get there, you really start feeling so involved. And there are chants, and you start singing with people. You get that feeling that everyone’s united for a cause, and it’s really nice,” said Kovalik.

Hugo Solomon ’19 agreed with Kovalik. He said that his enjoyment of the march also came with the realization participants and marchers were allowed to be cheerful and express their frustration in a positive, constructive manner.

“People think that an event like this… should be super somber, super sad, and it can be. At the meeting, at the speeches, I was crying. It was really, really sad. But when you’re there with everyone, you realize it doesn’t have to be like that. You can have a party while also sticking up for what you believe in,” said Solomon.

According to Solomon, the student leadership showcased at the march exemplified how young constituents can take political matters into their own hands when it comes to issues such as gun control.

“All across the country we’re seeing how young students, like activists, are seizing the responsibility left for us by the politicians of today who, honestly, have been lacking in many ways,” said Solomon.

Solomon continued, “Joining groups, planning more marches, organizing fundraisers, [and] more sit-ins: I feel like that’s how our generation operates.”

Leading up to the march, many students attended a poster-making session at Susie’s to prepare signs reading, “Arms are for hugging,” or “Am I next?”

Slogans were chanted at the march itself, such as “Hey, hey, N.R.A., how many kids did you kill today?” Merkatz said that she enjoyed the energy of the call-and-response chants.

“Someone would ask ‘What does democracy look like?’ and people would respond, ‘This is what democracy looks like,’ which was my favorite cheer, because it really shows the extent to which this student-led march is a vision of democracy in action of students taking the lead and to promote for change,” said Merkatz.

Currently, Merkatz is the Andover chapter head of #NeverAgain, a student-led organization that advocates for tighter gun control to prevent gun violence in the U.S. Vaz added that she plans to join #NeverAgain at Andover.

“A lot of my friends have started movements to call our representatives to take charge of gun control, especially in my home state of Florida,” said Vaz. “I really want to get involved and fight the issue.”

Merkatz detailed the logistics of the Andover #NeverAgain chapter and described ways in which the chapter would seek to affect the Andover community.

“Ms. [Jennifer] Elliott [’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life], has already agreed to serve as our faculty mentor, and we have a lot of students signed up who would be interested. So going forward, we’re seeing what change, what activism we can promote here on the Andover campus to hopefully make a difference here in our local Andover community and in the broader area,” said Merkatz.