Children, students and adults marched down Main Street on June 11 as a part of a nationwide rally against gun violence coordinated by the March for Our Lives organization.
Participants held signs and chanted “No more silence, end gun violence,” while they walked through downtown during Columbia’s weekly Soda City Market. Speakers at the event urged legislators to enact stricter gun laws and reduce the number of shootings in schools and communities.
The march was organized by a group of teenage students and headed up by Lily Lawther, a third-year high school student at A.C. Flora High School and Samantha Alexis Hauff, a first-year student at Presbyterian College.
In May, when a shooter killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Hauff was giving a speech to a group of fifth graders.
“I had this pit in my stomach and I was like why not them? Because it could be them,” Hauff said at the rally. “It could be any elementary school in America. It could be any middle school, any high school, any college, as college students are not immune to it either.”
Speakers and participants at the march emphasized the need for increased safety at schools across the country. For Emma Potter, a fourth-year early education student, the issue makes her think of younger students.
“I work with 4 and 5-year-olds, and the thought of something happening at the schools that I work at is really scary,” Potter said. “And no child or teacher should ever have to go through that. Like my sign says, 'future teacher, not future soldier.'”
Lawther told the crowd that she is tired of having to be brave when walking into a school or public setting. She encouraged politicians to take action to change this.
“I encourage them to do critical thinking. I encourage them to, for once in their lives, be brave because the bravery of constituents is not enough,” Lawther said. “It's their turn to be braver than the 17-year-old before you.”
Lawther said she hopes that no person will have to worry about being shot.
“My sister has learned to be brave, but she is 13-years-old and she shouldn't have to. An 11-year-old shouldn't have to, a 6-year-old shouldn't have to, a 32-year-old shouldn't have to, an 86-year-old shouldn't have to.”
Speakers at the event emphasized the need for individuals to take action to make a difference in the gun violence movement. Veronica Vodola, a fourth-year nursing student and native of Sandy Hook, Connecticut where 20 children and six staff members were killed by a school shooter said she hoped to see more USC students at the event.
“I just wish that more people would care and show up. And it's one thing to just talk about it to your friends, but it's a whole other thing than trying to get involved in your community and try to make a big change,” Vodola said.
Voldo believes the biggest impact comes from lawmakers.
"There's not much that we the people can do other than vote," Vodola said. "(Legislators) are in a seat of power and I hope that they recognize that and they try to change something and they see how we're pleading for it."