Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced on Tuesday that the city will provide free bus rides to students wanting to attend the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., scheduled for March 24.
The mayor announced her intention to provide taxpayer-funded bus rides for high school students during a rally outside city hall where hundreds of students were protesting gun violence. Using a SWAT team megaphone, Pugh announced: “It is all about hearing the voices of young people. Let’s show Washington, D.C., that Baltimore matters.”
She promised 60 buses from Baltimore aiming to bring 3,000 students to the Washington, D.C., rally. The students will also be provided with t-shirts and lunches.
“Change needs to take place, so the voices of young people, I think, are great for this particular effort,” Pugh said. “We need to end this violence, and it needs to be heard from not just me, leaders of the city. We need to hear the voices of young people. Maybe then Congress will listen.”
While the various marches and rallies focusing on gun violence have garnered support, there has been some backlash over the mayor’s decision to use public funds to contribute to the rally, as well as encouraging students to miss school days.
The city of Baltimore continues to face a massive debt problem that has led to teacher layoffs and less than ideal classroom conditions. Students in Baltimore high schools also struggle academically, with many students lacking in math skills.
The March For Our Lives movement is a direct response to the recent school shooting in Florida, and the rally aims to “demand that [students’] lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” according to the official website.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa voiced his support of Pugh’s announcement, stating that “enough is enough” and that he stands with students “1,000 percent.”
The rally was part of the #GunsDownGradesUp initiative that prompted students to walk out of class Tuesday morning and march from their school to city hall. During the march, Amee Rothman, a student organizer, said:
“We’re trying to stop gun violence trickling down to the youth. We see gun violence not just in schools, but all over Baltimore City, and we think it really needs to stop because it’s affecting the youth a lot. So we’re here to say something because we’re not going to be silenced.”
Talia Jackson, a student attending the rally, said: “We all need to come together and protest, so that something can change. I’m marching today because I think what is happening is unacceptable and it’s very disturbing.”