The Latest: Anti-gun rallies span US and the world
WASHINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators at student-led anti-gun rallies held across the United States on Saturday were joined by counterparts the world over.
In Paris, France about 100 demonstrators rallied near the Eiffel Tower in solidarity with the American "March for Our Lives" events.
Caitlin Waters, co-organizer of the Paris event, said it's important for Americans overseas to let Washington know that they want more gun control. Similar rallies were planned in New Zealand, Japan and other countries around the world.
In the United States, rallies stretched from sea to shining sea, with people marching in huge cities like Los Angeles and New York City as well as in smaller ones like Boise, Idaho and Omaha, Nebraska.
Prominent civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis says that the student-led, anti-gun protests occurring across the United States remind him of the early days of the civil rights era.
"I think it's amazing," Lewis said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They will be the leaders of the 21st century."
Lewis joined the "March for Our Lives" protest in Atlanta, Georgia, one of several anti-gun rallies being held across the U.S. on Saturday in response to last month's Florida school shooting and other mass shootings.
The Democrat also implored his Republican colleagues in Congress to "come to the right side" and to pass meaningful gun-control legislation.
Lewis wore a button with a large red letter "F'' on it, proudly displaying the grade he said he has received from the NRA. Lewis said hundreds of Democratic members of the House were wearing them today.
Tens of thousands gathered at a "March for Our Lives" rally in New York City on Saturday held a moment of silence to honor 17 people killed during a school shooting in Florida just last month.
Sam Hendler, a 16-year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was at the rally to read the victims' names.
Another MSD student, Meghan Bonner, told the demonstrators that she wasn't surprised when she learned the identity of the shooter because it was obvious something was wrong with him.
"There was so much more that could have been done to prevent this," she said, fighting back tears. "I want to see change."
The rally in midtown Manhattan is one of several being held across the United States on Saturday in response to gun violence.
The mayor of Houston, Texas told thousands of demonstrators at a "March for Our Lives" rally that adults have a responsibility to protect all children.
Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke at the Tranquility Park event Saturday morning, one of several anti-gun rallies being held across the U.S. on Saturday in response to last month's school shooting in Florida and other mass shootings.
"We have a responsibility for those of us as adults, we have a responsibility to stand up and protect our children," said Turner.
Turner also chanted with the crowd "Now is the time" to "do the right thing."
Students chanted "enough is enough" and held up signs with slogans like "our ballots will stop bullets" at a rally in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a school shooting last month.
More than 20,000 people filled the park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the "March for Our Lives" rally Saturday morning.
Others from the area traveled to Washington, D.C., where the main "March for Our Lives" event is being held. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft let over 100 people, including families of victims of the Parkland shooting, use the team's charter plane for the trip.
Team spokesman Stacey James says astronaut Mark Kelly reached out to Kraft for the favor.
"It's a hard thing to say no to, especially involving these victims," James said.
More than 20,000 people are expected at the "March for Our Lives" rally nearest the Florida school where last month's deadly shooting occurred.
Police presence was heavy early Saturday at a park near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as organizers set up and demonstrators streamed in.
Eighteen-year-old Sabrine Brismeur and 17-year-old Eden Kinlock came from schools 20 miles away to pass out water.
Kinlock said that may seem "like a small thing but it helps in the bigger picture."
The White House is applauding "the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights" at gun control marches in Washington and in cities around the nation.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters says "keeping our children safe is a top priority" of President Donald Trump and points to his calls on Congress to pass legislation related to expanded background checks and school safety.
Trump is at his Florida home for the weekend. His motorcade took him to his West Palm Beach golf club on Saturday morning as hundreds of thousands of people were preparing for marches after the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The president has ordered the Justice Department to ban bump stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons.
Dozens of protesters are rallying outside the U.S. Embassy in London in solidarity with the "March for Our Lives" protest against gun violence.
Students, families with children and other protesters raised placards reading "Protect kids not guns," ''Never again," and "Enough is enough" Saturday outside the new embassy building in south London.
Amnesty International U.K.'s director Kate Allen referred to the 1996 school killings at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, in which 16 students and a teacher were killed.
She said: "After our own school shooting at Dunblane, new gun ownership laws were introduced in Britain and that's exactly what's needed in the United States, where gun deaths are a national tragedy."
Hundreds of marches are planned in U.S. cities and dozens of locations abroad.
With thousands of demonstrators gathering in Washington, organizers of the March for Our Lives rally say the country has reached a historic emotional tipping point on gun violence.
They predict a half-million demonstrators Saturday near the U.S. Capitol building for a several-hour rally. That would match last year's women's march and make it one of the largest Washington protests since the Vietnam War era.
A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 69 percent of respondents and half of Republicans now favor stronger gun control laws.
Activists are looking to channel the energy of this youth-led initiative into the midterm congressional elections this fall with elements like on-site voter registration booths.
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