GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Students from all across South Mississippi took to the streets of downtown Gulfport Saturday morning, marching to bring awareness to safety in schools. The local demonstration was part of a bigger movement happening in cities across the country that coincided with the Walk for Our Lives March taking place in Washington.
Students gathered outside Dan M. Russell Federal Courthouse on 15th Street, carrying signs and chanting. According to an event page started by the group's organizers, the students are demanding that their lives and safety become a priority.
The walk on the Coast was organized by Students Taking Action for Reasonable Reform, or STARR. The group is made up of high school students in Mississippi, along with their friends, families, and other supporters. According to the group's website, they hope to empower their peers to take action to move Mississippi forward and inspire a movement to make schools and communities safer, beginning with reasonable gun reform.
State Representatives David Baria and Jeramey Anderson spoke at the demonstration in Gulfport. According to STARR, the lawmakers were guest speakers at the event. The young adults also spent the day registering voters at the event and signing up volunteers to help participate in future voter registration initiatives.
Pascagoula High student Kenyatta Thomas said the march is a direct result of the Parkland school shooting and is a call to action for legislators to pass laws that better protect students, including gun reform.
"Gun ownership shouldn't take precedence over the lives of our students," Thomas told WLOX in a story last month. "Our students are our future leaders. They're the future generation of people who are going to be making a difference in this world."
Thomas continued: "There are a lot of people who are upset, and angry and scared. And there are a lot of students who are scared for their lives. And a lot of parents and teachers who value the lives of their kids and students."
Quintin Harry, a senior at Pascagoula High and the son of a teacher, agrees with the need for stricter gun laws.
"Something could happen at any time and really the root of it is guns," he said. "It's becoming too easy in this country and especially this state with our lawmakers making it super easy to get guns and now making it legal to carry them on public grounds such as schools. That's what scares me the most."
Aside from the March for Our Lives in Gulfport, five other marches also took place Saturday across the Magnolia State in Hernando, Tupelo, Oxford, Amory, and Jackson.
According to the Associated Press, nearly one million people were expected to attend the March for Our Lives in Washington Saturday. That's in addition to the thousands expected at more than 800 sister marches from California to Japan.
The national movement has been propelled by a group of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have spearheaded the push for gun reform and safer schools following the shooting that left 17 of their classmates and teachers dead.