In response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead, Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, announced the formation of a new group called “March for Our Lives.” The goal of the group is to host a march primarily in Washington, D.C., but with offshoots across the country, demanding gun control.
The event has been called a “grassroots movement” organized by students concerned about gun violence, and their mission statement directly states that the organization is “created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country”. But after digging a little bit deeper into their website, doubt is cast on that statement, and instead shows that the group is receiving immense support from much more established anti-gun movements, who may have a larger influence than is being let on.
The event, which has received nearly $3 million in funding on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, is also lined up to receive massive support from the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, which is largely funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Everytown for Gun Safety has pledged to spend $2.5 million supporting marches like it.
But it’s not just money that the massive gun control group is bringing to the so-called “student-run” movement. The Bloomberg-run gun control group is also providing support, both monetary and organizational to sister-marches across the country that are supported by the March for Our Lives organization.
On the March for Our Lives Website, the only direct mentions of Everytown for Gun Safety take place on the FAQ page, where the group is mentioned four times. In the FAQs, it is laid out that Everytown for Gun Safety is offering a $5,000 grant to mitigate the costs of qualifying sister marches outside of Washington, D.C, and stated that the group will help with coordination efforts for those marches.
But with a little bit more digging, a stronger connection between the two groups is found. On the page where students can go to get their event listed on the March for Our Lives website, there is a handy link that goes to an “Event Toolkit.” The Event Toolkit has March for Our Lives branding, and is hosted on the Everytown for Gun Safety website. Despite that, there is no mention of Everytown for Gun Safety in the document. There is a link purported to display potential coalition partners, but it goes to a protected Google Drive link.
The document lays out advice on hosting the event, from determining roles for local organizers, to recruiting speakers, including local elected officials, and getting press attention.
It is unclear if the document was produced by March for Our Lives, or Everytown for Gun Safety, but the link being hosted on the Everytown website casts doubt on any illusion of it being produced by students. It opens up many questions about the influence of more organized gun control activists in the organization.
If more established activists are heavily involved, it also presents the question of whether they actually want to gain credit for these events, or if they want to keep the illusion of them being student-run.