On the anniversary of the student-led March for Our Lives demonstration Sunday, student activists in Philly are holding “A Rally to Remember” in LOVE Park as a reminder that there’s still work to be done.
Philly isn’t alone — while it’s not clear exactly how many, a number of similar events are happening nationwide, but this time without one larger march anchoring them, like last year’s demonstration in Washington.
The Philly event, slated for noon to 3 p.m., will feature speeches and performances from students, activists, and artists, as well as a memorial where rally-goers can pay tribute to loved ones lost to gun violence, said Alex Franzino, a 17-year-old junior at Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, N.J., and the director of operations for March for Our Lives Philadelphia.
“We really try to focus on, I mean, obviously carrying the message from Parkland, but also connecting it back to urban gun violence," Franzino said.
An organizer at last year’s march told The Inquirer she wasn’t sure if there would be a sophomore event. A permit on file for Sunday lists an expected attendance of about 125 people, said Lauren Cox, a spokesperson with the Mayor’s Office. A police presence will be on site, she said.
“Even if it’s, like, just 30 people, we’re OK with that," Franzino said. "Whoever can come. Hopefully, since it’s in such a central location, like LOVE Park, people walking by will want to stop by and check it out and just see what’s going on.”
A number of smaller events similar to the Philadelphia rally are happening Sunday in communities around the nation — the March for Our Lives Fort Thomas chapter in Kentucky has a march slated, while March for Our Lives Manhattan is hosting an “afternoon of performances.” There’s an “Activism for Our Lives” in L.A. and a “Looking Back and Moving Forward” event in Austin, Texas.
There isn’t an anniversary march listed on the national organization’s website, but something a little different is planned.
On Tuesday, the group plans for a pop-up gun-violence-prevention art installation outside the U.S. Capitol, according to an email outlining the organization’s plans, while March for Our Lives D.C. will host a Lobby Day Monday, where members will deliver letters demanding lawmakers pass gun-violence reforms.
Franzino said she may have been a little surprised when there didn’t appear to be an anniversary march planned by the national organization, but she suspected a shift in focus.
“I think what it is is, we can do a lot of marches or a lot of rallies, but what will really change it is changing the laws," Franzino said. "We love the marching, we love doing events like that, but I know as an organization, we do also like to focus on just changing the gun laws specifically, too.”
The national organization did not respond to a request for comment.
Scott Charles, trauma outreach coordinator at Temple University Hospital and a gun-violence educator, said the organizers’ efforts were noble and the possibility of smaller attendance this year is “unfortunate.”
“Here we are a year later, and we just don’t have the appetite for it. We just don’t have the stamina," Charles said. "It just doesn’t feel the same way. … So much has happened in the interim.”
He said raising awareness is hard work. “I and others who are engaged in this work, we just keep putting our heads down, we keep going, and there aren’t really anniversaries for us, because every day is a new day with sadness in it," he said.