Saturday, March 24, 2018, marches broke out across the nation for the cause of gun control. One such march was held in Augusta, Georgia at noon. The crowd was comparatively small at about 60 people, but the passion was certainly huge.
People began arriving at the Augusta Commons downtown at around 11:45 am. The crowd started out small since the weekly outdoor market was less than a block away, but the numbers began to swell closer to noon. They all came with protest signs in hand and on their t-shirts. Most of them were wearing orange to stand with those against gun violence.
At about 12 pm, the march began. The protestors walked with their signs to the Richmond County Board of Education. After chanting campaign slogans for several minutes, they marched back past the Augusta Commons and back down Reynolds Street to march through the Saturday market. Once the protestors were done, they returned to the Commons and disbanded.
The march in its entirety lasted about 45 minutes. Besides that, there were several things that set this event apart from other marches for me.
Firstly, the local event’s organizer was not there and was completely unknown. Not one person knew who had originally planned the event on Facebook, according to S.D. Smith, a 32-year-old teacher marching with the protestors.
Secondly, while high school age students were present, most of the protestors were much older. Many of them were parents with children. Others were young teachers. Still, others were middle-aged or older professionals with something to say.
One of them was George Shaw, a 68-year-old retired school teacher, and official at the department of education. Shaw was marching for his kids and grandkids.
Shaw said, “There are legitimate ways to regulate guns. Of course, that’s what the second amendment’s all about, ‘a well-regulated militia’ necessary for the security of the free state. People forget those first two clauses…I don’t want my grandkids to be afraid of going to school in the morning…I’m down here because I think we need to use our sense about this.”
Thirdly was the lack of media coverage. Besides a photographer from The Augusta Chronicle, I was the only journalist covering the event. None of the other local radio or TV stations were there to report on the march. Considering the extensive coverage larger marches are receiving from the larger media networks, that struck me as more than a bit peculiar.
Fourthly was the warm reception of the community. No counter-protesters came to stop the event, and besides hearing about one person who called them “idiots”, the protestors did not report receiving much negative feedback. People were overwhelmingly positive. They applauded, shouted, and even honked their horns to show their approval.
After the protestors disbanded, some of the women hung back to discuss gun control. They ranged in age from 15 to 58, and they agreed that something needed to happen for gun control. Several of these women exchanged emails before they left to keep in touch with possible future events. The one thing they agreed on is that discourse needs to happen.
“I think they (the right) don’t understand safety versus the second amendment,” said protestor Tripti Masias, a 40-year-old mother who works in finance. “They get so defensive.”
Despite the event’s small turnout, one thing’s for sure. Even in “pro-gun” Augusta, people are not content with the status quo.