Why I Marched 18.6 Miles from the NRA to the DOJ

Why I Marched 18.6 Miles from the NRA to the DOJ

Last Friday, when my alarm went off at 6am, I rolled out of bed, threw on the clothes I had laid out the night before, and headed out to catch a bus to Fairfax, VA. I was tired and it was already unbearably hot, but there was nothing that was going to stop me from attending the Women's March from the National Rifle Association to the Department of Justice. I could not be silent any longer.

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot in his car, in front of his girlfriend and four-year old daughter by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer. Castile had a valid permit to carry a gun, and warned the officer that he had it.

The National Rifle Association states that it is oldest continuously operating civil rights organization in the United States. Two days after Castile's shooting, they issued the following statement:

The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.

And yet, after Yanez was acquitted on June 16, 2017, there was no word from the NRA for over three weeks. In the mean time, they released an incredibly incendiary ad filled with hateful rhetoric and a thinly veiled call to arms.

Here at the Opposition, we strongly believe that Black Lives Matter. We believe in civil rights for all, not just those who look like you. And we believe that we are not safe unless everyone is safe.

The Women's March organized the NRA2DOJ March to denounce the false and intimidating rhetoric of the NRA and send a clear message that our movement will proudly and bravely continue to strive for the respect of the civil and human rights of all people.

On the bus to Fairfax, I sat next to a veterinarian and mom who had driven in from Maryland and taken the day off of work to march. Others I met were from Kansas, West Virginia, New York, and more. This is an issue that affects us all.

I was struck most when I arrived by a large banner of all the victims from the 2013 Sandy Hook shooting. The silhouettes of the victims were life sized, and each had a description of the person. I teared up reading each description, each innocent life taken too early.

The rally began with speeches from different leaders and activists, from Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, to a statement from Castile's mother, to a powerful spoken word piece on how we "don't have the right to do nothing."

The march began around 11am, with temperatures already feeling like 100 degrees. We had a long day ahead of us.

We marched a few miles at a time, with food and water breaks in between. During each break, I wondered if I could make it through the next leg. But once we began, the Women's March team made it clear—we are a family now, and we will make it to the end together.

As the afternoon went on, the sky got progressively darker. Around mile 12, we stepped into a coffee shop for a water break, and it began to thunder and pour. The electricity went out, and I wondered if we were going to be able to keep going. But the rain stopped, we regrouped, and continued.

By mile 15, my feet started to hurt, but as we crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown, I felt more energized than I had all day. And as we marched through the streets of Washington, I really did feel that that was what democracy looked like.

We stopped to regroup quickly in front of the White House, and we turned our backs and chanted, "Shame!" I wondered if President Trump was watching from the window. It wasn't until later that I realized he was away at his golf course. He couldn't even be bothered to be there on a Friday.

About nine hours after we started marching, we triumphantly strode down Pennsylvania Avenue and to the Department of Justice. We celebrated with high fives and hugs. It felt like we had accomplished the impossible.

We will continue to accomplish the impossible, and even if our feet hurt, we won't stop stopping marching. We'll be out there fighting every day until we are all safe, until there are equal rights for all.