On Saturday March 24, tens of thousands took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to join the national gun violence protest March for Our Lives. The movement was organized and led largely by teenagers, triggered intensely by the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting recently in Florida, but also in response to the rampant gun violence seemingly woven into the country’s social fabric.

We asked teens (and a few of the adults that care for them) why they were at the march on Saturday. Here’s what they had to say:

Adah, 12 (right)
"I’m here because the schools need less shootings, and we shouldn’t be practicing lockdowns."

Rowan, 13 (left)
"I’m here today because I think there should be stricter gun laws so we don’t have to be scared to go to school."

Skye, 19
"My boyfriend’s niece was shot and killed in the Parkland shooting. It’s not about taking guns, it’s protecting the people, and the people who are supposed to be protecting us."

Sophia, 13
"This isn’t okay. We have a right to feel safe in our own schools, and we aren’t. We aren’t safe. I hate crowds, I’m an introvert, but I’m angry enough to be here."

Molly, 17 (right)
"My mom went to Columbine High School. She knew the teacher who passed away there, so she was affected by it. She was scared of fireworks for a long time, and she was afraid for me to go to high school at Columbine. So I’m here to voice my opinion and protect our schools."

Steven, 16 (left)
"In our district we had two shootings; first Columbine and then recently at Arapahoe. Also that midnight theater shooting at Century 16, I was about to go to that theater, and instead we went to a different theater at the last second, which is something that saved my life. So I just want to be here to prevent things like that from happening."

Jorge, 14 (second from right, blue shirt)
"We’re here to protest against the gun violence, so kids like us can go to school, feel safe, and not feel threatened. School is supposed to be for students to feel good, feel like they’re welcome. And if you give teachers guns they’re going to be scared and not know what to do with them. If there is an emergency like that, it’s gonna be so easy for the student to get ahold of the gun from the teacher, it doesn’t make any sense. If a kid does plan it, they could plan with other kids to get the gun from the teacher, so it doesn’t make sense to give teachers guns. And it’s not good to fight violence with violence."

Jenny, 15
"It’s not fair that we have to fear for our lives. I think it’s cool to have a stance and have a voice, to be with these people. Because we all have the same opinion and it angers me that we even have to do this, it’s not right in the first place."

Sheccid, 14
"I don’t think gun control should even be a problem. Why do young kids’ lives have to be taken away when they just went to school to learn? Why can a 19-year-old get a gun in the first place?"

Simone, 14
"I’m an eighth grader, and every single day I go to school wondering if I’m going to say bye to my dad and it’ll be the last time I’ll ever get to see him. Because there are kids at school that I know own guns, and are not in the right place mentally to own guns. I know because I’ve talked to them about it, because I like hearing their opinions. But the fact is, I shouldn’t be scared to go to school. And I’ve talked to teachers about being bullied and they’re like, 'Oh, you shouldn’t be scared to go to school,' but at this point it’s not the bullying that scares me, it’s getting shot up that scares me."

Annie, 19
"I have a 9-year-old sister who asked the other day for a bulletproof backpack, and that’s just not acceptable. Other countries have proven that gun control works (Australia, UK, Japan). It’s time for our policies to change."

Mimi, 27 (second from right)
"I work for Amnesty International, so we support all human rights. These shootings are unacceptable and we want to make sure that we’re holding elected leaders accountable, and that there’s a change. Not only for kids but for the world."

Kayla, 22 (right)
"I work for Amnesty International, we believe that gun violence is a human rights issue that all of us should be concerned about. So it’s important that we get out here, scream, use our voice so that our congressmen and elected officials will hear us."

Ben, 32
"We’re here for the cause. Most of the brass players you see here are teachers, and we’re all just tired of it. We need to send a message and we’re doing everything we can to contribute here."

(From left to right)

Chelsey, 24
"I’m here support gun reform and make schools safer for the kids."

Susan, 28
"We’re here to change some laws, change some opinions, and make people realize that they’re choosing guns and money over our safety."

Meera, 24
"The fact that this is even an issue is ridiculous. It’s not even like we’re going for no guns whatsoever, it’s just some form of control, so that it doesn’t keep happening. What is it, an average of once a week now? The fact that we’re even over here trying to discuss why this is wrong is ridiculous to me."

Mariah, 27
"I work in schools, and just the thought of my students not really knowing … we just don’t really know if we’re safe anymore. And that’s students and adults alike. We can’t go to concerts or large spaces, without feeling like we’re totally unsafe and our lives are at risk, and that’s a scary thing. That little girl today, I cried so many times during her speech, because we had a drill, a very similar situation, where I realized, holy crap, I’m the person who has to take a bullet for you guys. So the mix of all of it, and just wanting everybody to be able to walk around with a nice clear head knowing that they’re okay."

Not pictured:

Christopher, 19
"I’m just here personally to advocate for gun reform. I don’t think congress represents the people, so I’m here to represent the people with everybody else."

Ever, 20
"I’m here to take a step and make a difference. One step at a time is the way to go. Even if one person comes and nobody else, that person matters."

Jay, 19
"I’m here because people shouldn’t get shot. People shouldn’t get shot when they go to school, when they go to movies theaters, you know? It takes steps to get there, and this is a very good step."

[all photos by Tim McClanahan]