Thousands of demonstrators marched through Washington on Saturday to demand an end to gun violence. And they brought signs.

Some protesters drew memes and used levity to bring attention to a serious issue. Others demanded, “Give me the resources to teach, not to kill.” More somber signs dealt with the gravity of gun violence directly, including a sign brought by a mother whose daughter died in a shooting.

We asked the students, teachers, parents and protesters about the signs they brought and the message behind them.

Paula Cross, 61, from Willoughby Hills, Ohio
About 40 years ago, Paula Cross lost her 7-month-old daughter, Erin, to gun violence.

Erin’s father, she said, barged into a friend’s house where they were playing, and shot and killed Erin as she sat on Cross’s lap, and then shot Cross three times with a handgun.

Today’s march was the first time Cross has publicly shared her story. She and her sisters positioned themselves off to the side of the main crowd because they thought it would be safer.

“It’s taken a lot of nerves to tell our story like this,” Cross said, adding that she’s grateful to the students from Parkland, Fla., who galvanized a movement.


(Ellie Silverman/The Washington Post)

Laura “Penny” Livesay, 54, who teaches English at Virginia Tech

Laura “Penny” Livesay said she often thinks about mass shootings, asking herself what would happen if she had to be armed.

She wasn’t on campus at Virginia Tech during the 2007 massacre that left 33 people dead, including the gunman, in what was then the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But she thinks about it often.

“It could’ve been my classroom,” Livesay said. “It could’ve been my students.”

As pundits and politicians debate the merits of arming teachers, she tries to picture herself in her freshman English classroom fending off a gunman. What happens if fleeing and terrified students run by her as she fires, she asked.

“I’m not prepared to take a gun in my hands,” Livesay said.


(Ellie Silverman/The Washington Post)

Nathan McAlpine, 14, from Washington

“It’s a ‘Black Panther’ quote,” McAlpine said of the sign. He explained that it was funny in the moment, but the line had deeper meaning and resonated with him. McAlpine was marching with members of the Zion Baptist Church in Washington.

“We’re just trying to get the message out that laws need to be fixed as a whole,” McAlpine said. “There are still issues within [Washington].” 


(Kayla Epstein/The Washington Post)

Madison Kambic, 22, who’s studying to be a teacher

Kambic told The Post her sign is “making fun of the fact that politicians are just saying words and not doing [anything].”

“The kids will get it,” she added.


(Kayla Epstein/The Washington Post)

The Ansell family from Buffalo, N.Y.

Carrie Ansell drove from Buffalo, N.Y., late Friday with her family on a mission. They didn’t have the budget to make this trip, she said, but the March for Our Lives was too important to pass up.

Ansell wanted to show her three children, ranging in age from 7 to 13, that if you disagree, you can’t just complain — you have to take action.

“We want the powers in charge to know we want real change,” said Ansell, 42. “We want to see a ban on assault rifles.”

Standing next to her on a chilly Saturday morning on Pennsylvania Avenue was her 7-year-old son, Daniel, who held a sign that read “Actually, guns do kill people!”

Daniel’s brother, Simon, 11, mingled nearby. He held a sign that said “Protect kids not guns!”

They attend Forest Elementary School, and Simon said recent events have made him concerned for his own safety.

“Guns are killing kids,” Simon said. “I’m here because I don’t want to die.”


(Kelyn Soong/The Washington Post)

Aaron Haverty, 34, and James Tschirhart, 32 

Aaron Haverty and James Tschirhart were students at Northern Illinois University when there was a school shooting in 2008. Haverty told The Post he feels “survivor guilt.”


(Shira Stein/The Washington Post)

Shira Stein and Tony Olivio in Washington contributed reporting.