Following the school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, the student-led movement March for Our Lives has organized an unprecedented mobilization of gun safety reform supporters. There are more than 800 marches happening across the world Saturday to protest gun violence in the United States, from Bangor, Maine, to Auckland, New Zealand.
Boston organizers are hoping to host one of the largest. The march is being spearheaded by a group of local students, including several directly affected by gun violence and the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“We, the students of MFOL: Boston, are joining students across the country to demand that our lives are prioritized over access to guns,” organizers said in a statement Thursday.
According to the group’s website, 60,000 people are expected to participate in Saturday’s march to Boston Common. Here’s what you need to know if you’re one of them.
When and where does it start?
The two-mile march in Boston starts Saturday morning at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Roxbury. Organizers are asking that demonstrators gather at the school beginning around 9 to 10 a.m.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren plans to greet students at the school around 10 a.m., according to her campaign. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will be on hand at 10:30 a.m., his office said.
The march is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and takes a direct route up Columbus Avenue to Boston Common. It’s expected to take at least two hours. Organizers say it’s fine to join midway for accessibility reasons.
After the march, the official rally and program is scheduled to begin on the Common at 2 p.m.
What exactly will happen at the rally?
The rally program includes speeches, spoken word poetry, music, and dance, according to Charlotte Lowell, a March for Our Lives organizer and Andover High School student.
Lowell said Thursday that the speaker list is being kept private for safety reasons, but emphasized that it is made up entirely of local residents.
“The speaker list is entirely composed of students and teachers from Boston and Massachusetts to emphasize the locality of this march and the presence of gun violence in schools and in streets in this city,” she told Boston.com.
How do I get there?
Madison Park is located across from the Roxbury Crossing MBTA Station, which is on the Orange Line. The school’s bus stop on Malcolm X Boulevard is also served by the 66, 45, 15, 28, 23, and 19 bus lines.
Heading to @MFOLBoston tomorrow? There will be extra #MBTA subway service service on all lines.
Buses that have stops along the March route will be detoured.
Please monitor https://t.co/VFYjwKwVfs for service updates during the event.
— MBTA (@MBTA) March 23, 2018
The commuter rail will be using the largest available train sets. Give us a call at (617)222-3200 and we can help plan your trip tomorrow. https://t.co/D50KFcDNBd
— MBTA Commuter Rail (@MBTA_CR) March 23, 2018
“Customers are … advised that, due to customer safety, it may be necessary to temporarily close Park Street and/or Boylston Street Stations during the rally on the Boston Common,” the MBTA said in a statement, adding riders should “expect a heavy volume of passengers” at stations downtown and on the Orange Line, from Back Bay to Roxbury Crossing.
The MBTA is also asking customers to purchase roundtrip (rather than one-way) tickets.
City officials are warning that the march will impact traffic and are encouraging those coming into Boston not to use their personal vehicles. Police will be enforcing tow-zone parking restrictions on the following streets:
- Charles Street, both sides, from Boylston Street to Beacon Street
- Beacon Street, both sides, from Park Street to Arlington Street
- Arlington Street, both sides, from Beacon Street to Boylston Street
- Boylston Street, both sides, from Arlington Street to Tremont Street
- Malcolm X Boulevard, both sides, from Roxbury Street to Tremont Street.
For participants coming from outside of Boston, the march is organizing buses to drop people off at Madison Park in the morning and pick them up at the corner of Charles and Beacon streets off the Common from 4:30 to 5 p.m. Lowell says they have about 30 buses signed up so far, from Falmouth to Haverhill to Wellesley to Wilbraham.
What should I bring — and not bring?
Organizers are encouraging demonstrators to bring water, snacks, IDs, phone chargers, cash, small first aid kits, and emergency contact information.
Signs will of course be allowed, but the event organizers are asking people not to bring signs with any sticks or stakes attached.
Other items organizers say shouldn’t be brought to the march include backpacks, weapons, masks or shields, drugs or alcohol, lighters, non-service pets, and “clothing with hate speech.”
What are they hoping to accomplish?
March for Our Lives is broadly advocating for “a comprehensive and effective bill” in Congress to address the disproportionate number of school killings in the United States compared to other countries. Two measures the group supports are instituting universal background checks and repealing a legal provision that has effectively killed federal research on gun violence.
“In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns,” says the national group’s online mission statement. “March For Our Lives believes the time is now.”
In Boston, the group is emphasizing two local gun issues in Massachusetts.
The first is a bill that would establish a so-called red flag law in the state, allowing family members or law enforcement officers who think a legal gun owner “poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to self or others” to petition a judge for an order preventing the individual from possessing or purchasing firearms for one year.
Secondly, they are pushing the Massachusetts’ representatives in Congress to support a proposed national assault weapons ban, in addition to calling for local lawmakers to continue to support the state’s assault weapons ban, which is currently at the center of a legal dispute.
Are there going to be counter-protests?
Resist Marxism, the Boston-based group behind two small, “free speech” rallies on the Common last year, says it’s holding a “Defend the 2nd Amendment” rally from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday on the Common. In a statement, the group said they plan to show that they will “defend our right to keep and bear arms and will not submit to bans on so-called assault rifles or government using arbitrary lists to infringe upon the 2nd amendment.”
According to the event’s Facebook page, about 100 people plan on attending and nearly 500 said they were “interested” in the counter-protest.