More than 1,500 people of various ages, races and nationalities passed through Rudder Plaza during Saturday's March for Our Lives event on the Texas A&M campus, calling for action from Congress on gun control.
The event was organized by Texas A&M senior Samira Choudhury and six committee members as part of the national March for Our Lives movement started by students who attended Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman shot and killed 17 people and injured many others on Feb. 14.
"There will be people that believe that this would never happen here at one of our schools. To those who believe that, I have this to say to you: The people of Parkland, Florida, probably thought the same way during Sandy Hook or Columbine. Look what happened. You might not know victims of gun violence or school shooting, but it could have been your son or daughter, your grandchild, your brother or sister. It could have been your best friend. I don't want to see my best friend huddling in a corner fearing for their lives," A&M Consolidated High School sophomore Coleman Maxwell said.
After a rally in Rudder Plaza where people could create signs and register to vote, the crowd marched and chanted to the corner of University Drive and Texas Avenue before gathering again at Rudder Plaza for a concluding rally.
"I'm just a mom and a grandmother. I've got grandkids in school, my daughter's a teacher, so I worry about them," Bryan resident Kathy Moss said. "Extremely proud that the younger generation is maybe stepping up, and I feel like my generation has failed miserably, so maybe the younger kids can get something done."
Moss' said her hope is that the rallies and marches across the country generate action in Congress regarding gun control.
"I don't understand that you can be put on a no-fly list because you're considered too dangerous to fly on a plane, but you can still buy a gun. ... I'm not opposed to people owning guns, but who needs an AR-15? Hoping we get stricter regulations. I don't want to take people's guns away, but I think we should regulate how we get them."
Inspired by other students who spoke out, 8-year-old Dylan Silvey said, "It feels good getting my voice heard by everybody else."
It is important to participate in the rally, he said, so schools can be safe places for students to learn, adding he does not want to see gun control that affects hunting weapons, just weapons of war.
Adam and Leslie Seipp brought their two children with them to the rally and march, saying their purpose is not to support taking people's guns away, but rather to promote conversation.
"We're not here to express that we need to seize people's guns. We're here to say that it's time to have a conversation in our country about violence that reflects the value of human life and that doesn't privilege the rights of gun owners over the needs of all of us to feel safe in our communities," Adam Seipp said.
Some of those conversations did take place before the plaza cleared for the evening. At one point, students in support of the rally and counterprotesters, who were carrying signs that read "Defend the Second," got into multiple conversations, discussing their beliefs and what needs to be addressed by Congress.
"I think what's extraordinary in some ways about Texas A&M is the fact that people from diametrically opposed political positions can actually talk about these things and listen to each other. They may not convince each other -- people may not move an iota one direction or another -- but they're talking, and that is an example for the rest of the country," A&M journalism professor Hannele Rubin said. "I would like to see a lot more of that. In fact, they're talking about why this isn't happening in Congress; why we can't even see these kinds of conversations going on in Congress? This is where the youth of our country can lead us much better than it looks like the adults are doing. These folks, as divided as they are politically and in lots of other ways, these folks are showing us an example of how we can have civic dialogue."
Fran Duane, a parent of four Bryan ISD graduates, noted the complexity of the issues being addressed.
"It's a tough issue, because you can be stuck on understanding people wanting to keep their guns, but also people wanting to keep their kids safe. It's a tougher issue than most people believe it is."
College Station High School senior Justin Moore chose to attend the rally and participate in the march because, he said, he has seen too many school shootings and wanted to do something.
"This is not a Republican or a Democratic problem, but a problem of the human race," Moore said. "Do not let the labels of political affiliation stand in the way of changing how society acts and perceives situations. In order to create a change, we must take the time to listen."
After the event, Maxwell said he was happy to see the turnout and the diversity in the crowd, noting he was glad to see so many children and high school students participate.
"In response to the Parkland shooting, I think as kids we need to step up and realize that our voice can be used to do something and change," he said. "It's about wanting to save lives and have sensible gun laws that prevent unstable people from getting guns. I think this march does send a message out to the Brazos Valley saying that we don't all have to agree with everything but that the fact we can join here as one and do something major for a good cause, I think that really should open our eyes up to that we shouldn't let these political labels divide us and not do what we really need to do."