An activist group arranged thousands of shoes on the grounds near the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. Each pair represented one victim of the estimated 7,000 children murdered by guns since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 12, 2012.
This quiet demonstration is part of a larger effort to prod Congress to pass further gun control legislation. All of the 14,000 shoes were donated to the event, called Monument for Our Kids, by people across the country, organizers said. Bette Midler, Chelsea Handler, and a number of other notable celebrities took to the social media to promote the event.
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) March 8, 2018
Oscar Soria, a spokesman for Avaaz, a worldwide organization that advocates for progressive causes and created this event, said:
“Before so many of us march in our capitol and across the nation, we want to call attention to all those who can’t and remind Congress that part of why we march is because [gun violence victims can’t].”
More than a few of the activists who attended say they hope this will spur lawmakers to action. Andrew Nazdin, a protester, said:
“We want to represent everyone who’s been lost. We want to bring the tragedy that’s been felt in communities across the country right to Congress’ doorstep.”
The shoe installation was placed on the southeast lawn at 8:00 a.m. Some of those who participated were parents who lost their own children to gun violence. Tom Mauser said:
“I’ll travel to Washington, D.C. literally wearing my son Daniel’s shoes, the ones he wore the day he died at Columbine. I think this kind of event with shoes offers a very powerful metaphor both for how we miss the victims who once filled those shoes and also for how we see ourselves wanting to walk in their place, seeking change, so that others don’t have to walk this painful journey.”
The response to calls requesting the shoes was enormous throughout the D.C. area, NBC reports. In just one day, several bags and boxes of shoes were collected at Barston’s Child’s Play in northwestern D.C.
Simmie Kerman, who owns Child’s Play said:
“I think people are really moved by trying to do something to prevent gun violence and see this as something they can do.”
The event’s organizers say they were spurred to create the memorial by the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in the hopes of pushing Congress to act.
Guns claim the lives of nearly 1300 children every year, according to data published last June in the medical journal Pediatrics, and an additional 5,790 are injured each year.
Avaaz estimated the fatality rate by multiplying it by the five years and three months that have passed since the Sandy Hook killings to reach the rough death toll of 7,000.
This isn’t the first time that Avaaz organized an event like this. In November 2015, the organization orchestrated a display of 11,000 shoes in Paris to represent activists protests against climate change inaction.
Such notables as Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-Moon contributed shoes. They planned marches, but the authorities canceled them because of terror attacks that month.
In the days after the Parkland shooting, Avaaz parked a trio of vehicles with billboards outside the office of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio is opposed to banning the weapon used in the shooting that killed 17 people.
Those billboards, a silent tribute to the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, read “Slaughtered in School,” “And Still No Gun Control,” and “How Come, Marco Rubio?”
The demonstration is scheduled to end at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, and the shoes will be donated to several charities.
This event is poignant, and it’s heartbreaking that we live in an age where children have to be afraid to go to school. It makes you wonder if another 7,000 kids will die before Congress does anything useful to create the effective gun control measures we clearly need.
You can view the memorial in the video below.
Featured image via YouTube videos.