At #MarchForOurLives, kids will lead the fight against gun violence
This weekend, I’ll be thinking about Peter Wang, the 15-year old from Parkland, Florida, last seen alive by his friends when he gallantly held open a classroom door for other students instead of seeking refuge himself during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
For his act of courage, Wang received a posthumous future acceptance into his dream school, West Point.
But the surviving students aren’t done. They want more. And they’ll be in Washington this weekend to show they mean business.
That’s a lot more than Donald Trump.
Trump, who demands loyalty and yet has no guilt about his own disloyal ways–cheating multiple times on his current wife with playmates and porn stars–leaves Washington, D.C. as the students arrive. It’s another temporary retreat to Florida for the man for whom Camp David is not good enough.
With most of Congress on recess, the Capital may actually seem a bit more earnest and sane over the next few days.
Talk about the week that was: The White House’s revolving door ousts a plain hawk (McMaster) for a warmonger (Bolton); a vanilla Republican (Dowd) leaves for a flaming partisan (DiGenova); Trump announces tariffs on China that rocked the stock market and could mean Walmart will soon have prices rivaling Neiman Marcus; and then there’s the passage of a huge $1.3 trillion dollar budget that the president tried to disown as something no one’s read, but then signed it anyway.
What’s striking is how Trump chose to deflect the budget deal, blaming Democrats for not resolving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue. That’s even though Trump himself tried to end DACA and then had a chance weeks ago to accept the Democrats’ compromise, which offered $25 billion in wall funding in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
Trump’s ineptness as a presidential dealmaker is telling.
He ends up with no wall and mere pennies for border security, the issue of DACA remains hanging over his head, and his conservative base is furious that he’s signed a $1.3 trillion budget that is anathema to conservativism. Oh, and aren’t tariffs anathema to their free market beliefs?
One contradiction at a time. That’s how the adults play politics.
But now they have left for the weekend, in an act of “self-draining.”
Thankfully, filling the void for a few days are the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors and a massive number of their supporters.
Five weeks after the Valentine’s Day massacre, the young haven’t given up on their fearless idealism.
Judging from the buildup to the #MarchForOurLives, their voices are still loud and strong, and the numbers in support are growing around the country. After a warmup walk-out a few weeks back, this weekend’s march is further evidence that the memory of the 14 students and three staffers who lost their lives is enough to fuel a national movement.
And that’s where the real hope lies. It’s not with Trump wanting to arm teachers. It’s not with the stone-cold NRA hoping everyone forgets Parkland.
If the marchers want to see real change, they must realize this isn’t just about fighting school shootings in Florida.
This is about leveraging that tragedy in order to give real hope to everyone who aches for a solution to senseless gun violence in America.
That means connecting the dots, the bullet holes through America that come out of the insanity of gun proliferation in this country.
It means seeing how Peter Wang is connected to Stephon Clark, 22, an African American father of two, gunned down last week in Sacramento. It’s seeing how both are connected to Stephen Guillermo, 26, my cousin, a Filipino immigrant gunned down four years ago in San Francisco when he entered the wrong apartment by mistake.
Both Stephen and Stephon were unarmed.
They didn’t have to die. They shouldn’t see justice die with them.
But in a gun-oriented, “shoot first, ask questions later” culture, too often the brutal logic of self-defense wins out.
Gun violence is tolerated. Innocents are killed.
In the case of Clark, the investigation continues with the police officers involved on leave with pay.
Last Sunday night, Sacramento police thought they had cornered a vandalism suspect. Perhaps by now, you’ve seen the night-scoped helicopter aerial shots of the South Sacramento incident on television news. On the ground, body cam footage caught the police closing in on Clark, believed to be the suspect, in his grandmother’s back yard.
Police yell, “Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop.”
Another officer yells, “Gun, gun, gun.”
Within seconds, two officers opened fire in the dark with 20 rounds of bullets that hit Clark immediately.
“The officers believed the suspect was pointing a firearm at them,” according to a police news release. “Fearing for their safety, the officers fired their duty weapons, striking the suspect multiple times.”
Enough truth for the lawyers.
But as I mentioned, Clark was unarmed and held only his iPhone.
What really happened we may never know, especially since the police muted their body cams at one point during the aftermath. And now the best witness is dead.
But consider this: If guns were not readily available, the police would have no reason to assume that any suspect would be armed. Even before they cornered Clark, all they knew is a suspect possibly had some kind of crowbar to smash windows. Not a gun.
Did I mention, Clark had just an iPhone?
I used to question whether my iPhone 6-Plus, made to look even larger with its oversized black case, appeared to be gunlike. Now I know a person of color with an oversized iPhone needs to be wary.
STEPHEN GUILLERMO’S DEATH
I feel for the family of Clark because I know how the self-defense laws can work against an innocent person.
I saw it in my cousin’s case. He too was unarmed. But his incident didn’t involve police.
Stephen entered his five-story apartment building on Mission Street in San Francisco after a night of drinking. But instead of getting off the elevator on the 5th floor, he got off on the third.
All the floors and doors look alike when you’re inebriated. But when Stephen, all 5 feet-4 inches of him, entered the wrong apartment, he didn’t deserve a bullet to the chest.
Stephen didn’t break in. If anything, he was let in. The 68-year-old resident, a retired security guard, knew the laws. But instead of saying, “Wrong apartment, get out of here,” or something more civil, the man shot to kill.
Unfortunately for my cousin, the law allows it if an “intruder” is in your home. It’s called the “Castle Doctrine,” and it’s pretty much a free shot.
The suspect was held for three days, but then the SF District Attorney refused to press charges. No manslaughter. Not even a misdemeanor. For taking a life with a gun, the killer is free.
There is no recourse against a gunman who shoots to kill by mistake. An innocent man dies? Tough luck. Besides, it’s two poor people in a San Francisco tenement.
Who cares about them, right?
What gives the Clark family some hope is that their case involves the police who are supposed to be accountable to the public for their actions. Twenty bullets pumped into an unarmed man?
I don’t know if authorities will prosecute in Sacramento County, but these are the kind of gun cases that fall through the cracks.
If you march for Parkland and the 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, make sure you don’t forget the other innocents who die from senseless gun deaths all the time.
Time to connect the dots of our bullet ridden country.
This weekend, we recall an Asian American, Peter Wang, 15, one of the Parkland 17.
But let’s include Stephon Clark, 22, and Stephen Guillermo, 26–both gunned down and unarmed.
Too young. Too innocent. Too soon.
#MarchForOurLives should be for their lives too.