Demonstrators calling for the National Rifle Association to respond to the Philando Castile trial verdict held a rally at the Department of Justice on Saturday after an 18-mile march on Friday.
Hundreds of participants in the demonstration, which was organized by the group behind the Women's March on Washington, gathered for a rally outside NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, at 10 a.m. Friday. They were met by a small group of sign-holding gun rights supporters.
Then, they set out for D.C. as temperatures topped 90 degrees.
The hundreds of participants marched on the sidewalk along Lee Highway (Route 29) in Virginia, then over the Key Bridge into D.C., through Georgetown, into downtown D.C. and along Pennsylvania Avenue. The protesters had to take a break from marching when thunderstorms rolled through the area in the late afternoon.
"We're here today to tell the NRA that they have a powerful platform and they should be using the platform to ensure that its members understand the challenges that people of color, particularly black men and women, are facing in this country," said Tamika Mallory, co-president of Women's March Inc.
The NRA has responded to march and rally in a series of tweets:
"The truth is that gun control laws harm those willing to follow the law more than they harm those willing to break it," the NRA said in an article on Medium.
The article goes on to state, "Not every woman in America will choose to protect themselves by owning or carrying a gun — and that’s ok. But when that choice comes under attack by the very people claiming to march for women’s rights? Or when those same people say that women must subscribe to gun control to be a true feminist? That’s when we have a problem."
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Demonstrator Polly Peters marched carrying a sign with no words, only the face of a young woman. The woman was her niece, Sarah Wayson, who was shot and killed by her boyfriend when she was 29. Almost eight years have passed since Peters' niece was murdered, but tears still pour down her face when she speaks about her death.
"This is my niece. She was born and raised in Annapolis," Peters said.
She begged for more gun restrictions.
"I'm old, but there's going to be no peace in my life if there isn't a change in the gun laws," she said.
The demonstration Friday was timed to coincide with protests held on the 14th of every month outside NRA headquarters. That date marks the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre.
Protester Jim Sollo said that as he marched, he thought of a young employee of his who was shot in 1993 by the "shotgun stalker" who terrorized the D.C. neighborhoods Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, killing four people and wounding 10 others.
"He heard these voices that told him to kill people, and we went about doing it," Sollo said as he paused in Arlington, Virginia, along the march route. "Those situations happen in this country because it's so easy to get guns."
At NRA headquarters, some counterprotesters shared common ground with protesters. Some of their signs mourned the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting
Counterprotester Fred Diven, who is part of a gun rights group in Annapolis called Patriot Picket, said the country does not have a gun problem.
"If the person has violence in their body, they're going to have a gun, they're going to have a bat, they're going to use a car and try to run over a police officer or run it into a group of people," he said. "We have a societal problem, not a gun problem."