Photography Stanislaw Boniecki

powerful portraits of young new yorkers fighting for gun control

Crowding the subways, storming the streets, chanting stats, and calling BS on NRA blood money. Stanislaw Boniecki captures young activists at March for Our Lives in New York City.

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Mar 26 2018, 2:56pm

Photography Stanislaw Boniecki

The mood aboard the overcrowded subway cars heading to 72nd Street on Saturday was one that’s rare when riding the MTA, and even rarer when talking gun control in America. It was optimism. The school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month was horrific beyond words, claiming the lives of 17 students and affecting those of countless more. Young people are angry AF at elected officials who seem not to be paying attention. But thanks to the incredible efforts of Parkland’s young student survivors, they're also hopeful as hell, if only because lives really do depend on it. New York City prides itself on resilience, diversity, and embodying the no BS message of MSD student Emma Gonzalez’s gut-wrenching viral speech condemning NRA blood money. Kids of all races and genders waved signs that screamed stats — black students are three times as likely as white students to experience gun violence at school, and it’s easier to buy a gun in Alabama than it is to buy a dildo — while veterans and cab drivers rallied behind the student-led movement. i-D caught up with a few of the marchers to ask what brought them out, and what they want elected officials to know.

Gabby Steinfeld, 24, spanish teacher

Why are you marching today? When they started talking about arming teachers, it kind of got to me. That’s me. If that legislation got pushed through, that’s something that directly affects me, and directly affects my students. That was not okay with me.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
If there was more gun control and more focus on preventing people from getting guns in this country, it would drastically change the amount of shootings that are happening in this country, as well as change the culture surrounding guns in this entire nation.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? Think about what you’re doing when you’re talking about gun control, and how it’s actually going to affect people in this country. Specifically, students in schools and teachers in schools, but also people who don’t think it’s going to affect them. Gun violence affects everyone in this country, and it’s rocking the whole nation right now, and it needs to be stopped.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? People have been talking about Oprah, which I think would be pretty cool, but I think that when it comes down to people who lead our nation, it needs to be someone who’s qualified, smart, and in touch with what’s going on in the country, which is currently something that’s not happening.

Sona, 29, student

Why are you marching today? Because this is absolute and utter bullshit. We’re so angry. We’re also marching today because there are a lot of people who can’t march today. It’s really important as we look around to ask who is able to access this space and who is not, and whether the people marching are those most affected by gun violence. It’s marching as an intersectional practice, and questioning protesting as we protest.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
We would have less deaths. We would have less people in jail who don’t belong there. It would fundamentally change how we think about power, and how we think about what it means to be strong, and what it means to take care of each other. We don’t have to take care of each other through violence. Fundamentally, it would help mass incarceration, because a lot of people are being put away for stupid shit.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? You need to start doing your job. Because this is your job. We’re telling you what is okay and what isn’t okay. We elected you, so while I understand this is very complicated, it’s also very clear what they right and wrong thing is. Considering you’ve decided to make this your job, you need to do it correctly.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? Maxine Waters. Honestly, it should be a woman of color, at the end of the day.
@proof_of_age

Emily Ling, 19, student

Why are you marching today? It’s a good platform to raise awareness of different problems that are long standing. I don’t think mass shootings are a new thing. They’ve been around since Columbine. I don’t think gun violence is very new. Because of the awareness that Parkland brought to the issue, this march can bring light to marginalized communities that don’t get this luxury.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
I don’t really know how it would be different. I’m only 19 years old and my whole life has been shaped by mass shootings and the fear of not being safe anywhere I go. I’m hoping it will change for the younger generations, where they don’t have to be scared to go to school or walk down the streets of their neighborhoods or to go to a movie theater.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? This is a tipping point. You can either listen to the people or get kicked out of office. I think we should replace all of them, so I don’t really have anything nice to say.

Brittany Isaac, 18, student

Why are you marching today? I’m marching to protect the rights of kids over gun rights and NRA lobbyists having control of the government.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
It would just feel safer if there were more restrictions, and I think there would be less crime.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? Stop taking money from the NRA. I get that you need money for your campaign, but you can’t take blood money.

Emmet Townsend, 18, works for a non-profit

Why are you marching today? I helped organize the walkout at my school for the national walkout movement that happened a couple of weeks ago, and it really moved me to see everyone’s passion for what’s going on.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted?
I would like to see how the outcome of that turns out. If it doesn’t end up working out, the beauty of democracy is that we can go back and repeal that and pass something else. I don’t think it’s just gun reform or mental health reform – we can do both. I’m willing to try anything at this point. I think doing nothing is unacceptable.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? At a certain point, the political polarization of the parties in America has to come to a halt. When we have something like this, you have to work together on something.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? I am a big fan of Representative Jim Himes from Connecticut. He’s a democrat, he’s Vice Chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, which puts an emphasis on moderation in politics. He’s pro-Second Amendment, but he’s also pro-common sense gun reform. That’s something I can really get behind.

Olivia Fialkow, 26, creative director

Why are you marching today? I’m marching for all of our lives. I know that one day I’m going to be a mother. I want to protect my interests and my generation’s interests, but also the next generation.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted? Realistically, I don’t think it would change anything about the way we live as Americans, but I think it would fundamentally change the way a lot of Americans feel about themselves.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? Wake up. Listen. The people don’t want the NRA to be in control and have the power that they do.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? Oprah.
@LVFLKW

Simon, 17, high school senior

Why are you marching today? I’m here to protest with everyone else. We all agree that change is needed, so we’re here to make the change that we need.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted? I would hope that people would be safer and no one would have to worry about regular daily activities like going to school. We don’t live in a third world country, yet there are people who don’t feel like they’re safe when they go to school and when they go to work. That’s a serious issue.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? We need to be more motivated by being good than we are motivated by money. It’s time that we care more about lives than money.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? Michelle Obama.

Lea Carey, 26, freelance illustrator and designer

Why are you marching today? It’s important to show up for the causes you believe in. As Mira said, it’s important to get as many bodies out here as possible advocating for change, and hopefully getting some people in government to pay attention.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted? Hopefully there would be less senseless killing and more safety. Parents shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their children when they send them to school in the morning. Likewise, students shouldn’t have to worry about gun threat in the classroom when they’re learning.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? We need gun reform and we need it now. The cost of lives should be held higher than NRA money. If you look at other countries and the way that they have chosen to regulate arms, there is a direct correlation between regulation and death statistics. We can’t ignore those death statistics any longer.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? Michelle Obama would be great. I’d also be a big fan of seeing Elizabeth Warren run. We need more female representation in our government.
@leancarey

Mira Brock, 25, works at sofar sounds

Why are you marching today? I wanted to come out and support and show up. It’s a cause that I believe in fighting for. It’s really inspiring to see all the children leading this movement, and I love seeing all the kids here today. I wanted to be a number in the masses.
How do you think America would be different if stricter gun control laws were enacted? Hopefully there would be less senseless killings. I do believe that gun reform can change that hugely.
What message do you want to send to our elected officials? Take this cause as seriously as possible. Listen to the people. “This is what democracy looks like” means a lot — we have elected officials to represent us.
If you could choose the US president, who would they be? I would love it if Michelle Obama ran. I don’t think the Obama family needs that, I understand that they need to take a break, but I would love it if Michelle ran for president.
@mira_brock