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Credit: Son Nguyen

At Philadelphia's "March for Our Lives" event on March 24, thousands of students, teachers, and other Philadelphia residents packed the march route, carrying painted signs and chanting slogans against gun violence.

Saturday's march — with the strongest showing in Washington D.C. — was a part of the "March for Our Lives" movement, which started on Feb. 14 following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Across the world, there were 800 marches planned for this one day. Along with two high school students, Penn College senior Jana Korn organized Philadelphia's march. 

Credit: Son Nguyen

“We have a gun violence problem here – it’s not just about mass shootings – it’s about the kids in North Philly that experience it here," Korn told The Daily Pennsylvanian. "Philly needs to stand up and have a voice on its own as well.”

From before 9 a.m., crowds stood outside Independence Hall before marching through Old City to Columbus Boulevard, where politicians and students gave speeches. The march ended around 11 a.m. but protestors stayed, continuing to chant slogans such as, "Hey Hey Ho Ho NRA has got to go," and, "No justice, no peace, no guns in our streets." 

Wharton freshman Robbie Tromberg — who graduated last year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where the Parkland shooting took place — was among the thousands of marchers, wearing one of his old high school hoodies.

Credit: Julie Coleman

Wharton freshman Robbie Tromberg, a 2017 graduate from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

Tromberg said he knows of only one other Stoneman Douglas graduate currently attending Penn. He added he knows many former high school classmates who flew to the march in D.C. and many family and friends marching in Parkland.

“It was definitely a much bigger crowd than I expected," Tromberg said. "I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the march in D.C., but just seeing everybody with all of their signs, everybody shouting and walking together, it really felt like a strong community.”

One of the Philadelphia marchers was Philadelphia resident Shakira Fagan, who walked behind the life-sized painting she carried of her late son, Irell Williams. Fagan said that her son was 17 years old when he was killed last summer because of "senseless gun violence."

Credit: Kaitlyn Boyle

Shakira Fagan, holds a painting of her late son, Irell Williams.

The back of the canvas was covered with messages for Williams from family and friends. A picture of her son as a young child holding a football, basketball, and baseball glove was taped over some of the condolences. 

Few protestors chanted about political parties or figures. However, many of the signs and slogans called out the National Rifle Association. 

Clad in a purple winter jacket and a Finding Nemo hat, a young girl, who appeared to be about 7 years old, stood behind her sister in a stroller and hoisted up a sign depicting that children need lightsabers not guns. 

Another elementary-school-aged girl was perched upon a relative's shoulders, carrying a neon yellow sign that said "Choose me over a gun!" 

Credit: Son Nguyen

Amid the marchers, volunteers in neon green shirts waved clipboards asking the protestors to register to vote. The crowd folded around the voter registration tables lining the route. 

Philadelphia resident Cassie Levine is a volunteer with HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that aims to increase Democratic participation. She was among the 50 HeadCount volunteers registering people to vote during the march. 

“Voting gives people a voice. I think that this is an important event to register voters because it’s a call to action by the youth,” Levine said. “It’s a great way to get young people involved in politics and empower them to use their voice[s] to promote change.”

Credit: Kaitlyn Boyle

Legal Studies and Business Ethics professor Kevin Werbach attended the march with his son, who is a sophomore in high school. Werbach said that he believed it was important to advocate for gun control to "create a safe world for our children."

“I think it’s tremendously impressive that the kids in Parkland have catalyzed this movement and that there’s so many young people and students that are involved in this activity,” he added. “It’s impressive and it makes people like me really want to participate.”

Donning a green beanie and holding up the sign that read, "Arms should be for hugging," Villanova University freshman Andrea Romano attended the march with her friend and fellow Villanova freshman Madeline Evans.

“You shouldn’t fear to go to school, maybe fear for a test or something, but you can’t fear for your life," Evans said.

Credit: Son Nguyen

College junior and former President of Penn Democrats Rachel Pomerantz also attended the march, along with fellow College junior Erin Farrell, who was the former communications director for the organization.

Pomerantz said that it was “sad, but very inspiring” to see small children holding protest signs. She added that she felt people must be as vocal about protesting gun violence as possible in order to make policy reform happen.

Farrell added that as a student, she felt a certain responsibility to march "because of how many events have happened, especially in the last year involving that age demographic.”

About a week after the Parkland shooting, dozens of Penn students gathered around Penn's LOVE statue protesting gun violence, including Korn. 

Credit: Son Nguyen

“We’re asking for very little, but we’re hoping it will send a very strong message to the Penn and Philadelphia communities,” she said. 

While she did participate in the march, College freshman and Penn for Immigrant Rights board member Ale Cabrales said that that she wished that there was more advocacy against gun violence than just a day of marching. 

“This has been happening for so long, especially in communities of color and low-income communities, and it doesn’t just happen in mass numbers,” Cabrales said. “Why does it always have to be mass shootings for people to start advocating for it and mobilizing for it?”

At the end of the march route, protestors gathered singing, chanting, and drumming. Marchers packed the pavement and even spilled into the grassy areas on the sides of the streets. One of the speakers, Mark Timpone, is the father of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school student who ran into the shooter on a stairwell during the attack. 

Credit: Son Nguyen

Timpone said the shooter was luckily re-loading at the the time, and Timpone’s son was able to take shelter in a nearby classroom.

Timpone explained that he was the former owner of an AR-15 style rifle, which he turned in after the Parkland shooting. 

“[An AR-15] is not made for hunting, it’s made for killing,” he said.

The crowd fell silent as Timpone said he was able to purchase the gun easily and without a background check, until one woman yelled, “Thank you for your honesty!”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told the crowd he found the march significant "because young people are leading on this issue all across the country.”

"I don’t think in any time in American history has a group of young Americans had as much impact in a short time frame as you’ve already had," he said.