Australian students and politicians have rallied in Sydney in solidarity with the survivors of the Parkland school shooting, as part of a global protest to end gun violence.
On Saturday survivors of last month’s shooting, their families and supporters will rally in Washington DC as part of the March for Our Lives, which calls on US lawmakers to do more on gun control.
Labor’s deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, said during Friday’s rally in Sydney’s Martin Place that US lawmakers needed to grant students the same protection their Australian counterparts received through strengthened gun laws after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
“No Australian student has gone to school fearing for their life because of yet another mass shooting,” she said. “It’s not because our kids are so different, it’s because our laws are so different.
“We absolutely need to preserve and protect that, and to support the fight of those young people in the United States who are asking for the same protections in their schools and their homes as our young people have in our homes.”
Imogen Grant, the president of the Sydney University students’ representative council, said the activism of the Parkland students was an inspiration for young people around the world.
“Over the past few weeks, survivors and students have stood up to the arms industry and the politicians they control,” she said. “That is something we should replicate here in Australia.”
Last Wednesday students from 3,000 US schools and universities staged mass walkouts in support of the Parkland students and their #neveragain movement.
The 14 February shooting left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, is alleged to have opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle.
On Friday, in the lead-up to the march, the Guardian’s editors in the US stepped aside to let Parkland students from the school newspaper, the Eagle Eye, guest edit the Guardian US site.
“In the wake of the tragedy that occurred at our school on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, our lives have changed beyond what we ever imagined,” they wrote. “We, along with our publication, have been transformed. We will remain so for the rest of our lives …We are firsthand witnesses to the kind of devastation that gross incompetence and political inaction can produce.”
In Sydney, the Greens MP David Shoebridge said he wanted to send “a clear message” to the student activists in the US. “We’re with you, you will win your fight, you will make your country safer,” he said. “We did it here, you can do it there.”
Grant said the “mass mobilisation” of the #neveragain walkouts was an “inspiration” to Australian students.
Plibersek also told the crowd that despite their success, Australia’s gun laws were also under attack. “In recent years we have seen the watering down and undermining of those changes,” she said.
“In Australia we’ve got Nationals and Liberals in the federal parliament wanting to cross the floor to vote in favour of importing the Adler shotgun. We’ve got the Shooters party here in NSW and One Nation over the country arguing for softer gun laws and the Tasmanian Liberals having secret talks with the gun lobby before the last election.
“We will not be complacent because the cost of complacency is too high.”