hero of the week: emma gonzález, who called ‘bs’ on the gun lobby
The first of our weekly heroes, Emma witnessed the Florida school shooting, and made a powerful, uncompromising speech about gun control that moved the world.
Hero: Emma González, 18-year-old senior student and President of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida.
What they did: Gave an impassioned, powerful and uncompromising speech following the deadly shooting at MSD High School at a gun control rally on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Tell me more: Emma began by calling for a moment of silence, a mark of respect that she noted the House of Representatives had so far failed to make. “We are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” she told the crowd, before describing the terrifying ease with which people can acquire guns in America, and how simple gun laws in Australia, Japan, Canada and the UK have put an end to mass shootings.
“If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association,” Emma said, to huge cheers. She then revealed that she already knew: Trump has received $30million from the NRA. Dividing that figure by the number of murdered school kids, she calculated it as $5,800 per person. “Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump?” she demanded, adding that the more school shooting victims there are, the smaller that figure will get, “And we will be worthless to you.”
In one of the most powerful and galvanising passages of any speech we’ve ever heard, Emma proclaimed: “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because... we are going to be the last mass shooting.” And then she called ‘BS’ on the whole system and it’s excuses, saying “The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice… They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS.” Every sentence is essential, so you have to watch the speech in full:
Why it matters: First and foremost, because America needs gun control and this was a rallying cry to the 97% of Americans (and 97% of gun owners) who support universal background checks, 83% who support a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases, 67% who think it’s too easy to buy a gun in the US, and 75% who believe Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence, as the latest poll confirms.
But also, Emma herself is a symbol of resistance. As a shaven-headed, brown skinned, teenage girl of latinx descent who is proudly LGBT, her very existence is radical at a time when hate against the intersections of oppressed groups that she represents is so high in America. Wiping away tears as she spoke her painful and urgent truth, Emma’s delivery was a powerful reminder that women are not weaker when they show emotion -- you can be emotional and angry and that doesn’t invalidate you or your message. It was a stark contrast to the ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ stance of Democrats (and Obama in particular) after other mass shootings in recent years.
Her deliberate focus on teens and kids -- asserting the value and validity of their political understanding and activism -- was vital at a time when she and fellow students’ are being dismissed, categorised as traumatised children who have been brainwashed during a sensitive time by gun control activists, the Democratic Party and even the FBI. They have even accused of being ‘crisis actors’ -- stooges who’ve been set up to say these things.
What effect is it having: Students are marching for their lives. Spontaneous protests happened in the days following the shooting, with student groups meeting with survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, and a huge March For Our Lives demonstration is scheduled for 24 March. They have had support from the Obama’s, with Michelle tweeting, “I’m in total awe of the extraordinary students in Florida. Like every movement for progress in our history, gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance. But @barackobama and I believe in you, we’re proud of you, and we’re behind you every step of the way.” And Barack adding, “Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe; marching and organizing to remake the world as it should be. We've been waiting for you. And we've got your backs.”
Speaking to the New York Times, Emma said, “This is my whole world now. I cannot allow myself to stop talking about this.” You can find her on Twitter @Emma4change to follow her extraordinary, historic campaign.
Special shout out: Stormzy, for his blistering freestyle at the Brit Awards. “Yo, Theresa May, where's the money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you've got the cheek to call us savages, you should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, you should burn your house down and see if you can manage this."