On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Washington, D.C. to protest gun violence as part of the March For Our Lives. One of them was Emma González, a Parkland shooting survivor who has been vocal in her demand for stricter gun control legislation. She had a lot to say about gun violence in her speech on Saturday, and then tears streamed down her face as González remained silent in her March For Our Lives speech that lasted six minutes and 20 seconds — the exact amount of time that it took for the Parkland shooter to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.
"In a little over 6 minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone absolutely everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered," González told the crowd. "Everyone who was there understands. Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands."
For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing. No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe that there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called.
González went on to name the 17 victims of the shooting, along with memories the Parkland community had of them. They "would never" resume their hobbies or see their friends again, González said. But what happened next was one of the most powerful moments of Saturday's march: González stopped speaking for several minutes, and only a few scattered cheers from the crowd broke the silence.
After González had been silent for a couple minutes, the crowd began chanting "never again!" as she looked on.. It was only after a timer went off, four minutes and 25 seconds after she initially stopped speaking, that González explained her silence and finished her speech.
"Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds," González said. "The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest."
"Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job," González concluded, and then walked off the stage.
It was not the first time that González made a powerful, moving argument against gun violence. Since the Parkland shooting, she and her classmates have been protesting, speaking out, and holding lawmakers accountable. During a rally in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, she pledged to ensure that the shooting at her school would be the last mass shooting in the U.S.
“The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us,” González said at the time. “And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S.”
González also penned an op-ed on gun violence that appeared in Teen Vogue just one day before the March for our Lives. In her op-ed, González detailed the Parkland students' fight for gun control, and explained that gun violence is an issue that affects people across lines of race, gender, religion, class, and more. She cited examples of people who have been victims of gun violence around the U.S., and explained that Saturday's march was just the beginning of a movement.
It is evident from this that González has a great deal to say about gun violence, and about how to fight for gun control. But on Saturday, she also demonstrated that silence can be an equally powerful tool in the fight for change — and it was a moving way for her to honor the 17 people that her community has lost.