On March 24 across the U.S., supporters for gun regulation united to address the issue that has allowed for the number of tragic school shootings to occur. The Lafayette March for Our Lives, one of 800 happening worldwide, trailed around Girard Park where protesters showed their support by carrying signs with messages.

Lafayette parents, students and children filled a basketball court in Girard Park to join the March for Our Lives on March 24 to protest gun violence in schools.

The student-led march, one of over 800 worldwide that day, was initiated by Cullen Lee Credeur, a 17-year-old from Carencro High School, in collaboration with Rhonda Gleason, a volunteer for the non-profit organization Moms Demand Action.

“Thoughts and prayers are no longer enough,” said Peggy Sabatier, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. “We’ve got to take action, and this march is a great thing that Cullen’s put together so that we can come together.”

Credeur said he was driven to start a branch of the march in Lafayette because of the responses that followed the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“It was, honestly, getting an alert on my cell phone basically every other week that there was another school shooting, always seeing it as the No.1 trending thing on Twitter,” Credeur said. “The main thing was after seeing the survivors from Parkland speak and their voices really gave me that motivation to want to speak and to start this in Lafayette.”

The march made its way along the track of Girard Park, snaking down the 1.7-mile trail through the park. Protesters walked with signs they received from the march coordinators or created themselves.

A young boy walked with a sign that read “Arms are for hugging” in black lettering over a heart. “We are students. We are victims. We are change,” was declared in black and red. A chant of “protect kids, not guns” made its way from the back of the demonstration to the surrounding trees.

After the march, the group made its way toward the stage to hear from various speakers.

Titus Major, 18, a friend of Credeur’s, co-starter of the march and also a Carencro High School student, said he remembered a time when gun violence was not a fear for school children.

“Nowadays, the desks that we have to put our books, our binders and our papers in are now temporary shields for bullets,” Major said, to applause.

Major was only one speaker of about a dozen including Credeur, Gleason, other high school and college students and Pearson Cross, Ph.D., a political science professor from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“They have NRA chapters in pretty much every town,” Cross said. “They have supporters. I think at last count, 3.5 million active supporters at the NRA, but I’ll tell you, there are more people like you and me than people who are gun nuts.”

Looking around the crowd, Cross pointed out the problem in politicians not present at the march.

“Look around. Are there any elected officials here today?” Cross asked to no response. “Where’s Clay Higgins? Where are your state legislators? Where are the senators? Where are the state representatives? Where are the city council people?”

Cross advised those at the event to vote and to join a group to make a difference.

“You join an organization that will magnify your power,” Cross declared. “I can’t see why our organization shouldn’t have 30 million members.”

Participants expressed their concern about gun violence around their community, as well as in schools, citing the 2016 Grand Theater 16 shooting. Credeur said the march was to advocate for all situations involving gun violence.

“This is for more than protection in our high schools,” he said. “This is for protection in our daily lives to be enjoy life that we’re given.”

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