Here is a consolidated file of live coverage of the “March for Our Lives” event in Columbus, part of the Post’s “live updates” real-time coverage from around the nation. March 24, 2018.
COLUMBUS, Ga. — A dozen organizers, setting up a stage and conducting sound checks in the leafy median of the downtown shopping and theater district, said they were anxious to see how many would attend the march in this conservative Southern community of 200,000.
Six-year-old Vivian Anderson was ready to wave her hand-drawn sign — after she goes to ballet class first.
“This is a family thing,” said her mother, Alexa Johnson-Anderson. “The fact that my kids are having to do lockdown drills — they just know they have to be quiet. But as a parent, that should not be the norm. It’s something, to think kids at this age have to go through that.”
Johnson-Anderson said she wanted the Columbus rally to draw attention to gun violence in all settings. “It’s not just in schools,” she said. “It’s all over.”
COLUMBUS, Ga.— By 11:30 a.m., about 300 people filled a block of the main downtown drag. Organizers described it as a good (though not overwhelming) crowd, for a small city that split nearly evenly between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Jessica McClain, 23, traveled an hour from Americus,Ga., adjacent to Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains. She held a sign that said “Enough,” with the names of the hundreds killed at Parkland, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Virginia Tech and Columbine in small, handwritten script.
The group listened to a half-dozen brief speeches, including from 14-year-old Jessica Nicole Roberts, who talked about looking forward to her 15th birthday and all who would never see theirs. She followed a soulful performance of “Forever Young” by local duo Chase and Amanda Eiland.
Sam Wellborn, 76, said that he too has “had enough.” He’s a prominent local banker and represents the area on the state transportation board.
“We’ve got to do something to change. And personally, I’m no longer going to support any candidates who don’t support what they’re talking about here today. The NRA has a grip on politicians, and they need to be ashamed. Not the NRA, the politicians,” Wellborn said. “I’ve always thought of myself as a Republican, but I’m beginning to question that.”
In the heart of the South…
Sitting on the edge of a planter with her husband, Merry Taylor, 68, said, “This is the South, but today is a day when we feel we can express our views for once.”
Her husband Sammy Taylor, a retired law enforcement officer, said his friends and former colleagues are split on the subject. “I’ve always been an advocate of gun control— it just makes sense,” he said. “Officers don’t like to see these guns on the streets. When you’re on duty, you’re for gun control. But when you’re off duty, those views can’t be brought out with your conservative friends.”
From a separate story …
In Columbus, Ga., the theme of a rally that was larger than expected seemed to be that, even in the South, gun control can be a viable cause.
“This is very significant,” organizer Carolyn Weinbaum said. “This many people in this community in this part of the country. The open question is where do we take it from here, as a community.”
Nick Rulon, a student at Columbus State University College of the Arts, said he planned to attend the rally in Atlanta.
“But when I found out there was a rally going on in Columbus, I knew it was much more important to be a part of the dialogue here, in my community,” he said.
The crowd grew to an estimated 400-500 and got considerably louder as the speeches ended and the marching began, the volume of chants of “no more” enhanced by the brick facades along downtown streets. The march passed by hundreds of onlookers, drawn downtown by warm spring weather and a food truck festival. Several gave thumbs ups, several gave dismissive waves, none shouted anything supportive of gun rights. The size of the crowd, while modest, was significant for Columbus, rarely in its history the site of serious political protest. Annual events attended by few local residents in the early 1990s protested the U.S. Army’s training of South American soldiers at what was then known as the School of the Americas, but those events faded in more recent years.
Closing the event was Gwyn Rush, an outspoken Columbus High School student who has emerged as a leader in the local student effort.
“I’ve grown up in a world where mass shootings at concerts, churches and schools are accepted as a necessary reality. Seven of the 10 deadliest mass shootings have happened in my lifetime. This is unacceptable,” she said, her voice breaking. “Yes, the gun lobby is a significant obstacle, and the fight for change will not be easy. But if we continue too fall into a cycle of defeatism, giving up before we even try, aren’t we to blame too? That is why my generation is saying ‘enough is enough.’ That is why we’re pleading never again. And that is why we’re here to march for our own lives and the lives of our peers. This is only the start.”
Gwyn, who expects to attend Agnes Scott, a liberal arts college in Atlanta, said after she climbed off the stage that Parkland has shaking her and her peers into paying attention to politics. “We need to cause change,” she said of fellow teen-agers. “We can’t wait for anyone else to do it.”