Terror at DC Rally after Screaming Man Reportedly Claimed He was Armed
For the families and survivors of mass shootings, the chaotic scene forced them to relive the most traumatic experiences of their lives
Gun violence survivors and their families were left in terror Saturday at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., after a man close to the stage reportedly began shouting that he was armed.
The disruption came during a moment of silence for the 21 lives lost in the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting last month. To the shouts of ‘get down, get down,’ gun control activists and their supporters dropped to the ground as others began stampeding away from the stage.
The U.S. Park Police said an “individual was detained by officers” after the suspect’s screams pierced the silence, sending some of the tens of thousands of rally goers on the National Mall into a panic. “No weapons were involved and there is no risk to the public,” Park Police wrote in a tweet.
For the families and survivors of mass shootings, the chaotic scene forced them to relive the most traumatic experiences of their lives. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was visibly shaken just moments after the commotion, remarking that it “took me back to the worst day of my life.”
“Thankfully, there was no threat but it got everybody really frightened,” Guttenberg told The 74. “The reality is, no matter where we are in America today, people do have a fear that a gun could be in the vicinity and that was an unfortunately horrifying and scary experience.”
The disturbing scene, he said, gave him a deeper understanding of the horror that his daughter experienced at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when a former student gunned down 17 people. That event sparked the March For Our Lives movement, which mobilized again this weekend to call for gun control regulations after the killings in Uvalde and a racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, 10 days earlier.
Saturday’s rally went on after frightened attendees were reassured that an active threat did not exist. But before that, there was intense fear among the crowd, including one Parkland woman who said she was immediately reminded of the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert that left 58 people dead. Others from Parkland, like Guttenberg, said it brought back the terror their children experienced at Marjory Stoneman.
Homer Harvey, who identified himself as a friend and neighbor of Parkland survivor and March For Our Lives leader David Hogg, was backstage during the chaos. Hogg had just finished speaking and Harvey was walking over to congratulate him when he saw the suspect. He said a man, threatening that he was armed, hopped a fence into a secured backstage area. The fear of the moment, he said, “is not a video game.”
“There are a lot of kids back there that are now crying and can’t get their heart rates down because this is what they have lived through,” Harvey said. “This is something that they have seen, and it just triggers everything in their brain saying that they are going to die.”
Hours earlier, Hogg tweeted that he knew there were supporters who would have liked to attend the march, but were afraid to “because of the state of violence in our country.”
Guttenberg said the experience reinforced the advocacy that brought him to the U.S. Capital.
“All I can tell you is I’m not going to stop fighting until we have legislation that solves this problem,” he said.