March 22, 2018 at 8:03 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bowser pledges full city support of March For Our Lives
March For Our Lives, Muriel Bowser, Lesbians Who Tech, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to host a pre-march rally on Saturday at 9 a.m. in Folger Park at 2nd and D Streets, S.E., near the Capitol South Metro station. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

HIGHLIGHTS OF SATURDAY’S EVENTS 

 

• 9 a.m. Pre-march rally in Folger Park at 2nd and D Streets, S.E.

 

• 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Rally at Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 3rd and 12th Streets, N.W.

 

• Video screens and audio speakers: Pennsylvania Avenue from the site of the stage to 12th Street

 

• Refreshments, restroom access: D.C. Council member Mary Cheh’s office at the John Wilson City Hall Building at 13 ½ Street and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

 

• Youth interested in marching with SMYAL, visit glsen.org/marchforourlives

 

• Road closures, unification services: marchforourlives.dc.gov

Mayor Muriel Bowser, Police Chief Peter Newsham, and gay D.C. Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian were among the high-level city officials that gave assurances at a press conference on Tuesday that the D.C. government is fully prepared to host more than a half million people expected to turn out on Saturday for the March For Our Lives against gun violence.

“We’re going to have thousands of visitors in our city on Saturday and many of these visitors are going to be young people,” Bowser said. “Our number one priority is keeping every person in our city safe,” she said.

“As the young people from Parkland, Fla., have been preparing for March For Our Lives, the District has been preparing to keep our residents and visitors safe,” Bowser told the news conference held at the Walter Washington Convention Center.

In mentioning Parkland, Fla., Bowser was referring to the student survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of 17 students and faculty. Several of the school’s students, including junior Emma Gonzalez, who serves as president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club, initiated the March For Our Lives.

They and other students from across the country have emerged as the lead organizers of the event, which they say is aimed at drawing attention to the need for stronger laws to regulate guns.

Gonzalez was also among the student organizers that expressed solidarity with students at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Md., which was the scene of a school shooting on Tuesday. The shooter, a student at the school, was believed to have been shot dead by a school security officer after he shot and wounded two students with a handgun.

“We are here for you, students of Great Mills,” Gonzalez tweeted on Tuesday. “Together we can stop this from ever happening again.”

The march, which organizers say has evolved into a huge rally, will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 3rd and 12th Streets, N.W. It’s scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, March 24, and continue at that location until at least 3 p.m.

John Falcicchio, Bowser’s chief of staff, said student organizers and allied groups working with them on the logistics of the march have arranged for a stage and sound system at 3rd and Pennsylvania Avenue, where there will be speakers and musical entertainment.

He said large video screens and powerful audio speakers will be placed along Pennsylvania Avenue from the site of the stage to 12th Street, enabling people to see and hear those who speak at the rally.

Deena Katz, president of March For Our Lives, an organization that emerged to help with the logistics and financing for the march, told the news conference on Tuesday that no “featured speaker” will be older than 18 years of age.

Katz, one of the adult organizers, is co-founder of a Women’s March chapter in Los Angeles that helped organize the national women’s march on Washington during the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

Organizers have yet to announce the names of the speakers but they have said that many of them will be students and teenagers, at least one from D.C.

Among the LGBT feeder marches expected to take place on Saturday will be a group of LGBT survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., in June 2016. The Pulse survivors are scheduled to lead a contingent of Human Rights Campaign staff members and attendees of an HRC conference from the HRC headquarters at 17th Street and Rhode Island Ave., N.W. to the rally on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A separate feeder march on Saturday will consist of leaders, members and supporters of the New York-based Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, which advocates for LGBT youth in the nation’s schools; and the D.C.-based LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL. SMYAL official Adalphie Johnson said the GLSEN-SMYAL contingent will assemble at a site about one mile from the march site.

She said those interested in participating should visit a website set up by GLSEN to obtain the location where participants will first assemble: glsen.org/marchforourlives.

Bowser said she will host a pre-march rally on Saturday at 9 a.m. in Folger Park at 2nd and D Streets, S.E., near the Capitol South Metro station. Among those expected to attend are some of the mayor’s LGBT staff members and supporters. Chief of Staff Falcicchio said the mayor and rally participants expect to walk together from Folger Park to the site of the March For Our Lives on Pennsylvania Avenue at about 10 a.m.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) has said she will open her office at the John Wilson City Hall Building at 13 ½ Street and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. during the time of the march to provide D.C. residents and guests “a warm space, light refreshments, and access to public restrooms,” according to her communications director Kelly Whittier.

Whittier said visitors would need to enter the building at a side entrance off D St., N.W. and must have a photo I.D. to be admitted into the building.

Bowser and Police Chief Newsham urged visitors and D.C. residents visit a website created by the city for the event, marchforourlives.dc.gov, which they said will have information on the numerous street closings, public transportation, and unification services for people who get separated from those they came to the march with.

“We are looking forward to these teenagers and everybody that believes that we must do more to have sensible gun regulation in our nation to keep children safe in their schools, in their neighborhoods, and in cities across America,” Bowser said. “We look forward to seeing you at the March For Our Lives.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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