By Sienna Hennessy
March For Our Lives organized a town hall for young people to discuss gun violence prevention with senate candidates at the ELAC Student Center last Friday.
March For Our Lives is a youth-led organization with the goal to eradicate gun violence in America through community organizing and gun-control advocacy. MFOL emerged during national school walkouts in response to the Parkland mass shooting.
MFOL collaborated with People’s Town Hall and Southern California Crossroads to host MFOL activist speakers and community-involved youth moderators’ discussions with Democratic candidates.
PTH is a Democratic project with the goal to encourage constituent knowledge of and participation in lawmaker convenings.
SCC is a non-profit organization that aims to serve youth and adults in violence-impacted areas through violence prevention, hospital-based and school-based services.
Austin Love, lead for MFOL chapter in Arcadia, said, “This town hall is an opportunity for us to hold our leaders accountable and showcase our voices.”
David Hogg, MFOL activist and Parkland shooting survivor, said, “Five years ago, we marched after Parkland. When [MFOL] started, we were just a group of young people that were incredibly traumatized by what happened… It’s because of all of you that we’re able to host candidates [to discuss gun control].”
Democratic candidates Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Barabara Lee, Rep. Katie Porter and businesswoman Lexi Reese attended the town hall to take part in the discussion.
The four youth moderators were Amir King, Micah Mercado, Tiphanie Bernal and Nicolas Quatch.
King attends Temple City High School, is the Student Board Member for Temple City Unified School District and part of the first class of the L.A. Metro Youth Council.
Mercado attends Nathaniel Narbonne High School, is a volunteer in Pasadena that passes out holiday dinners and helped beautify the Madrona Marsh.
Bernal attends Banning High School and is a student athlete that volunteers as a mentor and coach for L.A. Girl’s Play Initiative.
Quatch attends Alhambra High School, is a community organizer and is the youngest library trustee in the country for Alhambra.
The youth moderators asked candidates a range of questions about their plans to prevent gun violence, if they plan to address police violence and their thoughts on schools requiring transparent backpacks.
Love said, “This town hall serves as a reminder that democracy is not a spectator sport. It is a participatory endeavor, it interacts with real people who have to be engaged.”
Hogg ended his speech at the town hall recognizing the student activism history of East Los Angeles.
“One of the most remarkable things that I learned about after we walked out [for Parkland]… [was] the legacy of the Mexican Americans. In 1968, they walked out of their schools by the thousands in East Los Angeles and elsewhere to demand better education, better safety and better treatment overall,” Hogg said.
It’s because of that, that we [Parkland shooting survivors and allies] were inspired to walk out in the first place, even if our history books didn’t talk about [this Mexican American legacy]. We now do. We follow in their footsteps and we’re eternally grateful for their leadership.”