“On Valentine’s Day, we hid in classrooms, in closets, while 17 of our fellow Eagles were brutally murdered, and 17 more were injured. For those we lost, for those still healing injuries, for those still shattered by what happened, we stood up and demanded change. We’re going to go to our nation’s Capital, town squares, city centers, rural roads, and village parks to demand our lives be defended. We’re going to ask every “leader” what they’re doing to protect us. We are not just talking about voting – we are talking about saving lives.”

– Statement from the Students of Stoneman Douglas about the “March for Our Lives” Rally

Exceeding expectations, a huge crowd of peaceful but passionate demonstrators filled the streets around the Washington DC for the March For Our Lives event on March 24. Addressed by teenage speakers from around the country who have been affected by gun violence, attendees rallied with organizers to demand legislative action. Estimates of the crowd size by U.S. Capitol authorities and major news organizations varied from as low as 200,000 to upwards 800,00 people. Regardless of the final count, the demonstration ranks as one of the biggest to take place in the capital city.

Of the lineup of youth speakers to participate at the event, the 9-year-old eldest granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. made a surprise appearance and delivered a powerful message.

“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough,” said Yolanda Renee King. “And that this should be a gun-free world, period.”

When Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez spoke on stage at March for Our Lives in DC, she moved the audience to tears with her stunning speech. It was timed to last 6 minutes and 23 seconds, the length of the Parkland, Florida shooting.

“Six minutes and about twenty seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone, was forever altered. Everyone who was there understands, everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands,” said Gonzalez. “No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath or how far this reach or where this could go. For those who still can’t comprehend because they refuse to, I’ll tell you where it went. Right into the ground, six feet deep.”

After reading the names of her classmates and teachers who died that day, she paused for several minutes of silence, facing the crowd with streams of tears from her eyes.

“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and twenty seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your life before it’s somebody else’s job,” Gonzalez added.

Another Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and co-organizer of the massive protest, David Hogg, started his speech by presenting a price tag as a reminder of how much Florida Senator Marco Rubio took for every student’s life in Florida: One dollar and five cents.

“Ninety-six people die every day from guns in our country, yet most representatives have no public stance on guns. And to that, we say: No more. We are going to make this the voting issue. We are going to take this to every election, to every state, in every city,” said Hogg. “When politicians say that your voice doesn’t matter because the NRA owns them, we say: No more. When politicians send their thoughts and prayers with no action, we say: No more. And to those politicians supported by the NRA, that allow the continued slaughter of our children and our future, I say: Get your résumés ready. Let’s put the USA over the NRA. This is the start of the spring and the blossoming of our democracy.”

Other highlights from the rally included powerful speeches from a group of students from Chicago—among them, Trevon Bosley (19), Alex King (18), D’Angelo McDade (18), and Mya Middleton (16)—about their experiences with gun violence in their communities.

Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old from Virginia, proudly declared “Never Again!” on behalf of black women and girls who have been the victims of gun violence. 17-year-old Edna Chavez, of south Los Angeles, lost her brother in a shooting and said she learned how to duck from bullets before learning how to read. Students from Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, presented a sign of solidarity to Stoneman Douglas High School.

March For Our Lives had secured a permit for 500,000 people for Pennsylvania Avenue between 4th and 12th St NW. Law enforcement partners confirmed that the audience exceeded expectations with crowds extending well beyond 12th street and out further than Pennsylvania Avenue. The stage, located at 3rd and Constitution Streets, NW, served as the hub for the day’s rally. More than 800 sibling marches took place in cities around the world.