Hundreds of people took part in a local rally to protest gun violence and to call for tighter gun control laws Saturday.
The “March For Our Lives” rally in Toronto was one of dozens of marches taking place around the world today in solidarity with a massive march in Washington D.C. calling for gun control.
The protests were sparked by the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which left 17 people dead and 17 others wounded.
Since that shooting, young people from the school and thousands of others have cried out for tougher gun control laws in the U.S. The calls have been echoed by gun control groups and others who have long called for tougher restrictions on gun sales.
Toronto police estimate 600-700 people took part in the Toronto march, including some students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Henry Dryden was one of those students. He has relatives in Toronto and decided to take part in the march here. Speaking with CP24 at Queen’s Park Saturday, Dryden said it was just by chance that he was away from school on the day of the shooting in Florida.
“Miraculously I had a doctor’s appointment that I had made three months before for that exact date. I was there that day until two hours before,” he said. “I live right next to my school, so all I heard was the sirens and I heard the shots fired and I was like ‘what is going on?’”
He soon found out through social media posts shared from his classmates from inside the school.
“I’m very connected on social media with my classmates. They recorded it all and shared it with me, so I saw the bodies.”
He said much of his school remains closed off as a crime scene and he and his classmates are struggling to come to terms with the events of that day and the loss of friends and teachers.
“My message today is that all of this unnecessary violence and crime and children lost – it needs to end now because my school was supposed to be the last shooting to happen and we’ve had so many more in just a month and that’s unacceptable,” Dryden said. “It’s disgusting and I don’t understand how my country is proud of this.”
The local march in Toronto was organized by the group “Communities for Zero Violence.”
Marchers gathered at Nathan Phillips Square and then made their way to the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue before finishing off at Queen’s Park.
Marchers held signs calling for tougher gun laws and taking aim at the U.S. gun lobby.
Chiming in on Twitter, Mayor John Tory said he supports the march and added that there is work to be done locally to take weapons off Toronto’s streets.
“To those taking part in the #MarchForOurLives here in Toronto, in other Canadian cities & the U.S., thank you for your advocacy,” Tory said. “I remain committed to updating & strengthening Canadian gun laws so we can get guns off Toronto’s streets & keep them out of the hands of criminals.”
He added: “I also hope our U.S neighbours will soon recognize the success of laws like ours.”
Organizers at the march in Washington said they were hoping for more than 300,000 people to attend. Tens of thousands of people also marched in other major cities across the U.S. and elsewhere in world.