Local students rally, march for national 'March for Our Lives' movement

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thousands of students and supporters both across the nation and locally rallied and marched Saturday in another effort to demand that lawmakers pass gun legislation and make schools safer.

Students rallying in the national movement called, "March for Our Lives," in uptown Charlotte said it wasn't a moment, but a movement.

“We cannot just talk about change. We need change now,” Butler High School sophomore Jordan Bratton said.

The Charlotte march, which started at First Ward Park, was organized by area high school students as a push against gun violence and a call for tougher gun control.

“Guns are everywhere, but if you put more security in school, it'll protect more kids,” Bratton said.

The "March for Our Lives" rally, spearheaded by the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was expected to be one of the largest marches in history. Nearly 1 million people were expected in Washington D.C. and more than 800 sister marches were held both in the U.S.and internationally, from California to Japan.

[IMAGES: March for Our Lives Charlotte]

Channel 9 reporter DaShawn Brown was in uptown Charlotte Saturday as the rally featured speakers followed by a march around uptown.

Mike Wirth, a professor at Queens University of Charlotte, spoke to the crowd. Wirth's cousin, Meadow Pollack, was one of the 17 victims in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“There's not a day that I don't worry about a gun,” Wirth said. “Folks, this is not hard. Putting your kid in the ground, that's hard.”

Sisters Criss and Ella Burke, survivors from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 27 dead, now live in the Charlotte area and attended the rally.

Brianne Dehlinger, who now lives in Charlotte, was at the rally. She graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2002.

“I know teachers, administrators,” Dehlinger said. “I have friends and family whose children I babysat who were still in the school (during the shooting).”

Maddie Syfert, a student at Myers Park High School, and Carly Lerner, a student at Charlotte Country Day School, were part of a group of students that led the movement in Charlotte.

"I couldn't get Parkland out of my head," Syfert said.

"I could picture them hiding in a closet and hearing gunshots," Lerner said.

The students said they marched with a clear purpose: They're demanding gun reform, encouraging people to vote and letting lawmakers know they are against arming teachers.

"We are the change, we are the future generation," Syfert said.

"The fact that no one did anything after 20 first-graders, 7-year-olds (died)," Lerner said of the Sandy Hook School Shooting. “Like, I was looking at their faces. They're just innocent little kids, and nothing was done and stuff can be done, I just don’t see why it shouldn't be."

The route used Brevard Street, Fifth Street, Caldwell Street and Third Street and ended at Marshall Park.

Charlotte Department of Transportation officials said roads will only close as the march starts, and drivers should pay attention to officers directing traffic.

The marches are the latest action taken by students following the high school shooting last month.

Some of the Florida shooting survivors were already in Washington, D.C., Friday ahead of Saturday’s planned march.

Several states, including the Carolinas, came up with plans to keep students safe. Parents and survivors are pushing for a $1 billion plan to stop school violence.

"We have to do something. This cannot happen again,” said Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond. “And nothing is happening. It's been 36 days, and nothing has happened. We have to move fast."

Part of the plan includes more mental health services for students.

In Washington, students walked down Pennsylvania Avenue during the "March for Our Lives" on Saturday alongside pop stars Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato.

They requested 14 Jumbotrons, 2,000 chairs and 2,000 public restrooms.

The ultimate goal, the students said, is to harness the support of voters, with their sights set on November's midterms.

"The high schoolers and the college students are sick of this normalcy in this environment that we live in, where we have to live with mass shootings and code red drills," said Alex Wind, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

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