Students, parents and their children filed into Girard Park to join the Lafayette area March for Our Lives in protest of gun violence in schools and in search of regulations on gun ownership.
The march was student-led and was one of 800 happening nationally on that day in response to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 lives were lost. The Lafayette March for Our Lives was initiated by Cullen Lee Credeur, a 17-year-old from Carencro High School with help from Rhonda Gleason, a volunteer Moms Demand Action– a non-profit organization.
Credeur said he was driven to create this march by the sheer amount of gun violence present and how it was impacting his school, friends and family.
“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 event began with the march around the track where the protesters carried signs that read, “We are students. We are victims. We are change,” or “Arms are for hugging.” After the march, the group made way to the stage where speakers would address the crowd. This included Credeur, his friend and co-starter Titus Major, 18, and various other students from high school and college campuses. Pearson Cross, a professor from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, also spoke to the crowd.
“(The NRA) have supporters,” Cross said. “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 and Gleason encouraged people to join an organization to “magnify” their power. A table beside the stage was open to anyone looking to register to vote.
Credeur said he wanted others to remember this was for more than just the Parkland students. The march, he said, was created to reduce gun violence everywhere in the hopes of making others feel safer.
“I think people need to start to see that life is the most precious thing that we’ve ever been given,” Credeur said. “We had the shooting here at a movie theater. That’s an activity. I want to be able to enjoy these public events. That shouldn’t be something we have to worry about.
“This is for more than protection in our high schools,” he added. “This is for protection in our daily lives to be able to enjoy the life that we’re given.”