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'This Is What Democracy Looks Like': Thousands March Downtown, Calling For Gun Control

Moon Area High School was one of more than a dozen local schools to receive a threat in the weeks followinga school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla

“It made things personal for me," said Lia Cueto, a junior a Moon Area High School. "This isn’t just an issue happening in Florida or Maryland, it could happen anywhere. So, I think it’s really important for us to start taking action.” 

She held a sign that read “Guns don’t die, children do,” while rallying in downtown Pittsburgh Saturday. She marched from the City County Building to Market Square with thousands of others. Organizers estimated more than 30,000 people attended the march. Some called for banning assault rifles, others want stricter background checks.

But the theme of protecting children was loud and clear.

Sisters Erin and Emma Simard organized the local March For Our Lives rally to be held simultaneously with the national gathering in Washington D.C. Several busloads of Pittsburgh students and supporters also traveled to the Capitol for the march. The national protest was organized by survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“We always felt this anger when we heard about school shootings, but we never knew what to do with that anger,” said Erin Simard a junior at Shadyside Academy. “They showed us that we still have a voice and an active voice in democracy.”

More than 800 other marches were planned nationwide, according to the March For Our Lives website, with a message to, “demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools.”

Thousands of people filled two blocks of Grant Street in front of the City-County Building before students led a march chanting, “Save our students, save our lives. No more children have to die,” and, “No more stalling, no more lies, pass a bill and save our lives.”

Once they filed into Market Square, students and politicians took to a stage leading a call and response of, “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.”

Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Lenel Berfield, Lia Cueto, Ava Richardson and Sila Basbay at the March For Our Lives rally in Market Square.

Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne Fontana noted that he owns guns, but recently introduced legislation to ban assault weapons. The bill, which would amend Title 18 of the Consolidated Statutes to say, “no person shall possess, manufacture, import, sell or transfer an assault weapon or large capacity magazine,” was referred to the judiciary committee March 22.

“It’s been introduced, but the problem is the majority party in Harrisburg will not run that bill. That’s why it’s so important for all of you to register to vote and vote for candidates that are for gun reform,” he said.

Volunteers were also at the Market Square rally registering people to vote.

State Rep. Ed Gainey implored young people to vote. He encouraged them to continue fighting for what they value.  

“Let us not forget the lives that have been lost in urban neighborhoods throughout the United States of America. Let us not forget the fight of African-Americans who have been fighting for sensible gun legislation since the '80s so we can watch our kids grow up,” he said.

A mother whose daughter used a gun to commit suicide and a man whose mentally ill brother killed several people at a family reunion also spoke about access to guns and universal background checks.

Organizer Erin Simard echoed several student speakers in saying, “This is not a partisan issue, it is something that affects all of us and we must all demand change, OK?”