About 100 demonstrators convened at North Charleston's Riverfront Park on Sunday for the second annual March for Our Lives rally where participants and state lawmakers touted support for gun control measures.
The event was organized by the Lowcountry Students for Political Action, who launched the rally last year to coincide with the national March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. The inaugural student-led rallies and marches in 2018 — held in North Charleston and Columbia — were organized across the country in the wake of the Valentine's Day shooting last year at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed.
Thousands of participants attended the rallies in the Palmetto State last year, including as many as 1,500 in North Charleston.
Jacob Gamble, one of the LSPA organizers and also a freshman at the University of South Carolina, expressed frustration at the lack of turnout at this year's rally but said he and his peers remained steadfast in their efforts to energize young South Carolina voters. Speakers at the event also included the likes of Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-Charleston, and the state's top Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn.
"This year was definitely smaller than last year, and that says a lot about the people who were here today," Gamble said in Riverfront Park. "But it says more about the people who are not here today ... it shows how people who came today are committed to fighting for this issue."
Summerville High School sophomores Madelyn Swygert, 15, Hannah McKee, 16, and Samantha Smith, 16, all said they were compelled to take part in the event on Sunday after their student council created posters for demonstrators.
"Less devastation, more legislation," Swygert's poster read.
"I've always been really passionate about this topic, but I've never really known how I could get involved," Smith said. "I'm definitely interested in participating in future events and staying up to date with what the LSPA is doing."
Sunday's event came just days after proposed legislation meant to bolster required background checks for firearm purchases effectively died after it failed to make it out of committee. The would-be law was intended to close the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows licensed gun dealers to sell firearms to customers after three days even if a background check is still pending. Authorities have said the same loophole enabled a man to buy a gun in 2015 which he used to kill 9 black worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.
"These kinds of things will mobilize people," Gamble said, referring to the rally. "It's kind of a springboard for people to get more involved."
Sydney Clinton, 17, also a member of LSPA and a junior at Fort Dorchester High School, said that political action group, which was founded and run by students, has been hard at work accumulating contacts over the past year to help grow their events.
"We just have to continue doing these things — having rallies and writing our legislators and all of that, because there may be 10 more people at the next event and then another 15, and that's how these things grow," Clinton said. "And that's the only way we're going to have any substantial change."
Joey Benton, 16, a sophomore at Bishop England High School who participated in the statewide school walkout last year said that, despite the smaller turnout, was inspired to continue his civil activism for the cause.
The event, he said, reminded him that "the small group of motivated individuals are the ones that make the difference, not the politicians in office."