ATLANTA — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Atlanta on Saturday to show their solidarity against gun violence along with millions of others across the country, all participating in the March for our Lives.
They were called to action by a brand-new corps of leaders: student survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead Feb. 14.
They took to the streets of the nation's capital and in such cities as Boston, New York, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Oakland.
Atlanta police said they estimated that about 30,000 protesters, many of whom were students, filled the streets of downtown Atlanta in an effort to push lawmakers to change gun laws in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.
"It is inspiring to see all these people who go to school or they're teachers, parents, average citizens all band together and unite in such a path of history," protestor Jacob Zaslab told Channel 2's Lauren Pozen.
Prominent civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who joined the march to the Georgia Capitol, said he was impressed by the students leading the protests.
"I think it's amazing. It reminds me of the early days of the civil rights movement," Lewis said. "They will be the leaders of the 21st century."
Lewis wore a pin with a large red letter "F'' on it, proudly displaying the letter grade he said he has received from the NRA.
Marchers carried signs that read "Protect Kids, Not Guns" and "Vote Them Out."
“I am just impressed that they are being as active and taking as much initiatives as they are it shouldn’t take having it shouldn’t take having to see your friends killed to get us out there,” marcher Andreas Wolfe.
Many local students spoke during the march including a 17-year-old senior from Southwest Dekalb High School.
“We stand as one to advocate for common sense gun legislation because our wellbeing both mentally and physically is more valuable than anything tangible,” the student said, who did not identify herself.
The goal for those who joined in this nationwide movement is this: their voices are heard.
“We just want to make a change, that is pretty much it. And that is why we are out here, to make a change,” Zaslab said.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also spoke at the march telling the crowd we stand with you and hear you.
Atlanta’s rally and march was held in conjunction with hundreds of others across the country, with one of the largest being held in Washington, D.C.
By all appearances -- there were no official numbers -- Washington's March for Our Lives rally rivaled the women's march last year that drew far more than the predicted 300,000.
Channel 2's Justin Gray spoke with marchers from all corners of the country who attended that march.
Gray spoke with 13-year-old Ryan Lien who held a sign that said “Let us live.”
“Really what it boils down to is that us kids can go to school and not come home with a bullet in our chest,” Lien told Gray.
Violent Merrill traveled to D.C. from Boston. She didn’t travel just to march, but to register voters as well.
“We’re making a difference by registering to vote. We're volunteering to register voters. The legislation is what going to change something,” Merrill told Gray.
Parkland student Emma Gonzales, who has become one of the leaders of the Never Again movement, stood silently on stage for 6 minutes and 20 seconds, which is the time it took for a gunman to take the 17 lives at her school.
Student from North Carolina showed up with signs that had the pictures of the Parkland shooting victims on them.
Adults in the crowd, like Cathleen Levy, from Atlanta, said they were learning from and looking up to the young people who have started a movement that has swept the country.
“That’s why I’m here, so I can follow their lead,” Levy said.
The National Park Service told Gray there were no incidents in the peaceful march.
A White House spokeswoman said in a statement, “We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today.”
Cox Media Group