March for Our Lives Ramp Up: Iconic “Shoes” Gun Violence Protest Revives
750,000 Americans Dead from Gun Violence Since Shoe Protests Began a Quarter Century Ago
Those sad, empty shoes are back.
In the aftermath of the Parkland Florida shooting on February 14, 2018, the grassroots campaign Silent March™ is regrouping to join a chorus of Americans demanding federal and state legislation to reduce gun violence. The non-profit Silent March is known for its nearly quarter-century old campaign to collect and display empty shoes of those who lost their lives to guns, and their family members and community. These "special" shoes are eloquent, a haunting testimony to the national epidemic of firearm-related deaths.
Tuesday 3/13/2-18 A Shoes Protest Campaign Kicks Off Anew by International Advocacy Group Avaaz
In the lead up to the March for Our Lives, the advocacy organization Avaaz is bringing the heartbreak of gun violence to Congress’ doorstep, according to their online materials and an announcement made on March 5th. They're "building a monument on the Capitol lawn for the children we’ve lost to guns with 7000 pairs of shoes, representing every life taken since the Newtown shooting."
Ellen Freudenheim, cofounder of Silent March, said, "What a terrific mobilization, and timely, too. Good ideas have legs, and we welcome the renewed use of empty shoes in front of the Capital to remind our elected officials of the human consequences of their inaction. Enough!" Silent March has historically called for regulation of firearms like cars and pharmaceuticals, along the entire life span of the product from design and manufacture to who purchases the product under what conditions. "Congress needs to understand that we need a federal assault weapons ban, a universal background check system, a restitution of funding for research into gun violence."
The two shoes campaigns are unrelated. Avaaz is a web-based, multi-issue organization that "campaigns in 15 languages, served by a core team on 6 continents and thousands of volunteers. We take action -- signing petitions, funding media campaigns and direct actions, emailing, calling and lobbying governments, and organizing "offline" protests and events..." They focus on climate change, human rights, Monsanto, and a host of issues.
Use of Shoes as Protest Symbol Against Gun Violence
The Silent March™: Americans Against Gun Violence campaign began in 1994, before the advent of web-based campaigning. It generated press coverage from Japan to Europe featuring this horrific epidemic of gun violence, unique to the US among industrialized nations. Silent March, a shoestring and single-issue campaign funded by individual contributions and several small foundation grants, focused on staunching the epidemic of gun violence in the US, suspended national-level operations after September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, empty shoes have been used for over twenty years by state gun violence prevention groups, including those in Wisconsin and New York, to graphically visualize that real humans are behind the dreadful statistics of 30,000 American civilians killed annually by firearms.
Twice, in 1994 and in 1996, Silent March™ collected and placed 40,000 pairs of shoes, representing annual gun deaths, in front of the US Capitol. Hundreds of Silent March™ protests were held by local volunteers in state capitols and cities including Denver after the Columbine shootings, Charlotte NC during an NRA convention, and in Philadelphia at the Liberty Bell during the Republican National Convention that nominated George Bush in 2000.
Nationwide, Silent March™ has collected an estimated 100,000 pairs of shoes, many with personal notes and photos.
For some, the empty shoes have become an enduring symbol of loss and determination, and the notes that accompany the shoes bear the pain of authenticity:
Tucked into sneakers, a hand-made heart card from Bethel Park, Philadelphia, saying, “Someone please explain to my 5 yr. son why his Uncle Frank won’t be back to take him to his first baseball game (Pirates vs Phillies) as he promised. His heart has been broken because of this...all thanks to an AK 47.”
Tied on a pair of worn women’s sandals, the note, “When I was a child, my best friend’s cousins, a brother and sister, were killed while playing with a gun.”
In child’s script, attached to a pair of little no-laces, velcro-tied leather shoes, a note from 5 year old Kathleen, “I don't like guns because Daddy almost got killed by a gun.”
Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was murdered in the Columbine high school shooting participated in the 2000 Silent March™ in Denver, and ever since makes it a point to wear his son’s shoes when lobbying elected officials. Mauser wrote a book, “Walking in Daniel's Shoes.”
Most of the Silent March™ shoes were donated to charity. After the 2000 Philadelphia protest at the Liberty Bell during the Republican National Convention, 18,000 pairs representing the number of youth age 21 and younger predicted to be killed a firearm by the next Presidential election, were kept in storage for a decade.
To start or join a Silent March™ project in your community, see the website. (http://www.silentmarch.com )
Find us on facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/silentmarch)