Durham County

Durham County leaders back youth protests that build on Black Lives Matter momentum

Students from across the country protest at the March for Our Lives

Students and gun control advocates marched in South Florida, Washington, D.C., and across the world more than a month after a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
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Students and gun control advocates marched in South Florida, Washington, D.C., and across the world more than a month after a gunman killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Durham County leaders gave their support Monday night to youth-led protests against gun violence that "build on the momentum of [the] Black Lives Matter" movement.

The Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution "in support of local youth-led efforts calling for state and national action to prevent gun violence in schools and communities nationwide."

"Every child deserves to learn in a school that is safe and adults must do more to protect our students and schools from gun violence," the resolution states. "Young people in our community are taking the lead, in solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in calling for action by state and national leaders and asking that adults listen and follow their lead."

Seventeen people were murdered by a gunman at the Parkland, Florida, school on Feb. 14. Since then high-school students have led walkouts and protests nationwide, most recently the March For Our Lives protest in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The media attention given to white teenagers who survived the Florida shootings compared to African-American youth in the Black Lives Matter movement has been criticized.

But the Durham County commissioners recognize that the current youth-led movement against gun violence builds on momentum of those who have gone before: specifically "Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, [Gabrielle] Giffords and other efforts to amplify the majority of voices who support sensible gun control legislation in the U.S," the resolution states.

Student Gun Protests
People fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the "March for Our Lives" Saturday in Washington. Alex Brandon AP

Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs wore a button with the words "Coalition to Stop Gun Violence" and the image of a line drawn through an AR-15 rifle.

"We’ve seen incredible leadership and inspiration in young people here, in D.C. and across the nation," Jacobs said. "We can certainly support the vision they’ve had that we as adults have not been able to provide."

Commissioner Brenda Howerton, who read the resolution aloud, said that she heard one of the young people at a March For Our Lives protest on Saturday say that they "want as young people to thrive together and not die together."

Howerton raised four children, two of whose lives were ended by violence. Howerton co-founded the Parents of Murdered Children-Durham Chapter and has spoken at annual vigils remembering victims of violence.

Her son Charlie was shot and killed at a party in Hampton, Virginia, in 1993 and her son Daryl was shot and killed by Greensboro police in 1994.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563; @dawnbvaughan
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