Finance senior Rebecca Tjahja said when she learned about a Florida high school shooting last month that left 17 dead, she knew she needed to act. Her desire to push for gun control led her to help organize the Dallas March for Our Lives that took place at Dallas City Hall on Saturday.
“There was the Las Vegas shooting not too long ago, and there were a few shootings in between, but this shooting hit way too close to home,” Tjahja said. “When you go to school, you don’t expect to see your friends die.”
The march, which paralleled hundreds of other marches that occurred across the world on the same day, was a response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.
“After hearing all of the stories of all the students (who) were shot, it just made me really angry,” Tjahja said. “It made me really want to do something.”
Tjahja contacted a group of students from the Dallas area who had expressed interest in organizing a march. The committee, composed of 10 high school and college students, first met Feb. 27. In under four weeks, the group was tasked with planning and executing the march almost entirely on its own. Tjahja said part of the challenge was that many of her colleagues had never organized something on such a large scale.
“We all have a full-time course load while we’re managing this,” said Tjahja, who served as the volunteer manager. “Being so young and not having a lot of experience in this is a challenge.”
The event began shortly after noon on March 24. Attendees marched from City Hall east on Young Street and circled around the Hutchinson Convention Center before returning to City Hall for a series of speeches. The choice to feature student speakers was deliberate, Tjahja said.
“We’re not emphasizing politicians, we’re not emphasizing professionals,” she said. “We’re emphasizing students. We want students to be the driving force of this.”
Mechanical engineering junior Andrew Wright, an attendee, said the march was especially important to him because of its student-centered nature.
“This shooting, in particular — I think it’s different,” he said. “Instead of hearing people speaking on behalf of the victims, we’re hearing … the victims speak up. This is change.”
Ruqiya Barreh, a neuroscience freshman who attended the march, said the shooting and the protest inspired her to become more politically active.
“We’re making sure that when we say ‘never again,’ we mean it this time,” she said. “We’re going to vote out these people if necessary. Enough is enough.”
Tjahja said her committee’s plans don’t end with the protest. Some ideas moving forward are to organize a student rally in response to the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Dallas on May 5.
“(Students) are not to be messed with,” Tjahja said. “It’s quite inspiring to see that our generation is strong and that our generation is willing to stand up for what we want.”