MLK III welcomes Parkland survivors to Atlanta for gun prevention tour

A silent protest is held outside as part of the Road to Change Rally presented by March For Our Lives at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University on Sunday, July 29, 2018. (Eric Stirgus / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

ATLANTA — Hundreds of people, including a survivor of the February mass school shooting in Florida, rallied in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon for legislation at preventing gun violence and making schools safer.

Their main theme was clear: Vote this November in order to elect lawmakers who will enact preferable policies. Their preferred candidate in the Georgia's governor's race was also clear: They cheered a reference to Democratic Party nominee Stacey Abrams and booed a reference to Republican Party nominee Brian Kemp. Abrams backs gun control measures, while Kemp wants to expand gun rights.

The rally, held at Georgia State University's Rialto Center for the Arts, was organized by March For Our Lives, the organization started and led by students who survived the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Jaclyn Corin, who survived the shooting, urged people to turn out to vote this November. She pushed for more polling places and for states to create more early voting opportunities.

“That kind of fear has no place in any school,” she said of gun violence. “That kind of fear has no place anywhere in the United States of America.”

Several audience members wore T-shirts of organizations advocating policies such as universal firearms background checks, banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and restricting gun access to domestic abusers. Most were adults and parents. Several came with their children. Nearly all of the speakers and performers were students and young adults.

Gun rights supporters have advocated a different approach, which has included allowing teachers, with the proper training, to carry firearms in the classroom. A handful of Georgia school districts have allowed such policies.

Antoniette Tuff, a former DeKalb County Schools employee who talked a young man out of firing his weapon inside a school in 2013, spoke at Sunday’s event. She congratulated the Florida students for their resolve.

“I stand here today to allow their voices to be heard,” she said.

Martin Luther King III, son of the assassinated civil rights icon, was the first speaker.

“I am excited,” he said. “Momentum is rising and a change is on the horizon.”

Martin Luther King III speaks at a March For Our Lives rally in Atlanta on July 29, 2018. (Eric Stirgus/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Sunday’s event was part of a nationwide tour to maintain awareness about the issue. Several people were invited to discuss their personal experiences involving gun violence. Students outside Georgia who were part of the rally said they were inspired by Sunday’s crowd, which appeared to be about 300 people.

“It shows that the young people are demanding change,” said Ramon Contreras, 19, of New York.

Lyric Eschoe, 16, an Atlanta student being homeschooled, said the movement will continue by engaging young people through a familiar tool: social media. The students said they'll continue to work, although some of it may not be as visible as the rallies and last spring's march on Washington.

“It’s not that it’s stopped,” Lyric said. “It’s just that you don’t see everything.”