NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Tens of thousands of people marched through Manhattan on Saturday in a gun control rally coinciding with the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said 175,000 demonstrators showed up in support of the movement that “has just begun.”
In the sea of signs, a sign change may be on the horizon.
“Today’s my 18th birthday, and I will be voting,” one demonstrator told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.
“For the kids that died in all the school shootings, honoring them,” another marcher said.
“Our parents tried to make this change and they couldn’t, and I really hope that in my lifetime and in my parents’ lifetime we can see this happen,” said Rachel Harris, of Westchester County.
“I’m here because, as a teacher, student safety is my first priority,” a man added.
Speaking at the Midtown event were Sam Hendler and Meghan Bonner, two classmates who survived the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last month at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Hendler read the names of the victims and asked the crowd to honor them with a moment of silence.
Meghan Bonner wept as she recalled the day of the shooting. She told demonstrators that she wasn’t surprised when she learned the identity of the shooter because it was obvious something was wrong with him and said there was more that could have been done to stop him.
“Our school doesn’t want to become another statistic. We don’t want to be in the list of names — Columbine, Sandy Hook. These are all terrible tragedies,” fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School classmate Charlotte Dwyer told DeAngelis. “We want to be the ones that really spark a change. So we’re here to start that.”
Sir Paul McCartney joined the crowds along Central Park West, saying the murder of Beatles bandmate John Lennon was one of the reasons he decided to march.
“One of my best friends was killed in gun violence right around here, so it’s important to me,” McCartney told CNN.
Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman while returning home to the Dakota apartment building in 1980.
“I’m not here as an actor. I’m here as a citizen,” Adrian Grenier, of HBO’s “Entourage,” told DeAngelis. “We are demanding that Congress act and do something once and for all about the proliferation of guns in this country.”
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio were among the Democratic Party politicians who joined the march.
“It’s nonsensical to them why their government can’t have common sense reform,” Schumer told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis. “They know it’s because of the NRA, and fear of the NRA, and what they’re saying is ‘You’re afraid of the NRA? I have something else for you to be afraid of. The people of the United States of America.'”
“I think what you’re getting from these young people is they’re saying we’re not getting any leadership from Washington and we’re going to provide the leadership,” Cuomo said. “This activism versus the NRA, this activism wins.”
Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon, who’s running against Cuomo in the Democratic primary in September, posted a photo on Twitter of herself with family members and others at a subway station on the way to the event.
The march along Central Park was one of hundreds of protests planned in cities across America. Students, parents, and concerned citizens showed up in Englewood, New Jersey to show solidarity with the nationwide movement.
“Across our state and our nation, young people made it clear they will no longer accept excuses when it comes to passing commonsense laws that will keep our schools, and, indeed, entire communities, safe from gun violence. They made it clear that they want action, not merely more thoughts and prayers. They made it clear that their lives are more valuable than a passing grade or a political donation from the gun lobby,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement. “The next generation showed that they will not sit quietly, and that they are ready to lead. Their activism inspires me and reaffirms my commitment to making New Jersey a national leader in passing commonsense gun safety laws.”
Polls indicate that public opinion nationwide may indeed be shifting on an issue that has simmered for generations, and through dozens of mass shootings. A new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 69 percent of Americans think gun laws in the United States should be tightened. That’s up from 61 percent who said the same in October of 2016 and 55 percent when the AP first asked the question in October of 2013. Overall, 90 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of gun owners now favor stricter gun control laws.
But even with claims of historic social momentum on the issue of gun control, the AP poll also found that nearly half of Americans do not expect elected officials to take action. Among the questions facing march organizers and participants will be how to translate this one-day event, regardless of turnout, into meaningful legislative change.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)