A young boy protest against gun violence in downtown San Diego.
A young boy protests against gun violence in San Diego’s March for Our Lives. Photo by Chris Stone

Riley Brown, 17, stood on the outskirts of San Diego’s March for Our Lives on Saturday, recalling how gun violence eight years ago still grips her in fear.

Riley Brown of Carlsbad, 17, who experienced a school shooting protested at San Diego March for Our Lives. Photo by Chris Stone

She was at Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad in 2010 when a man emptied a .357-caliber Magnum revolver, targeting students on the playground. Two girls suffered arm wounds.

Brown and her classmates were on lockdown for 3 1/2 hours. She’s now at Carlsbad Village Academy.

That incident “affects me a lot when I am hearing about all of the shootings just this year,” Brown said. “Even though so many people have lost their lives and like I’m alive, I’ve lost certain parts of my life.”

Brown says she can’t go into crowds and do certain things “because I am so terrified. And that has ruined my life.”

She held a sign reading: “It happened to me…it could happen to you.”

Brown was one of tens of thousands of people who marched down Harbor Drive to protest gun violence in San Diego’s edition of the massive Washington March for Our Lives. Observers said the size of the march here was comparable to the January 2017 Women’s March downtown, which drew a reported 40,000.

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“It’s not fair that people still think that their right to have guns is more important than children’s lives and people’s lives,” Brown said. “It’s devastating and frustrating.”

Other San Diego area high school students spoke about what the gun violence issue meant to them.

“I’m here today because I’m sick of feeling unsafe in school, and I want to go to an environment where I can learn and not fear for my life,” said Sophie Roppe, 18, who attends Del Norte High School.

A teacher expresses her opinion about instructors carrying guns in classrooms in San Diego’s March for Our Lives. Photo by Chris Stone

Her 15-year-old sister, Chloe, added: “I just think that we need change because America is becoming dystopian. I think our school is not the kind of place where you would have a shooting, but you never expect it, and I’m not comfortable where I am knowing that there are events like this happening.”

Sophia Zamoyski, 18, also of Del Norte High, said she was tired of the excuses the government is making for no action against gun control.

“I think that we need gun control for everyone to have a safe learning environment and I would not feel safe in my school if a gun was in there whether it be from a student or if a teacher is holding it,” she said.

The rally started at 10 a.m. at the County Administration Center and by 11 a.m. the crowd began marching into the downtown streets. San Diego police and San Diego County sheriff’s deputies patrolled the event. No incidents were reported.

Young people were at the forefront of the San Diego’s March for Our Lives. Photo by Chris Stone

At least two men attended the rally as counter protesters.

A man with a Donald Trump flag moved his way into the middle of the rally, but protesters surrounded him with their signs. A second man holding a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and wearing an NRA hat stood along the edge of the street.

Rallies also took place at Swami’s State Beach in Encinitas and Escondido City Hall.

Organizers of the nationwide march called on politicians to find a solution to gun violence in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died.

San Diego rally-goers read the names of the Parkland victims.

Nona Golan, a senior at Scripps Ranch High School, also said the shooting in Florida caused her and her friends to become involved with gun control activism.

“We want to help the reform, want to sign some petitions,” Golan said. “We all got pre-registered to vote. We want to contribute to the voice. We want to try and make a change.”

The march came a little more than a week after thousands of students took part in a national school walkout to advocate for gun restrictions on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting.

Mohamed Elnakib, one of the organizers of the march, said Friday that the march was organized by students with the help of local activist groups such as Women’s March San Diego

Sarah Farouq, 19, a student at Grossmont College, shows solidarity with speakers at the San Diego’s March for Our Lives. Photo by Chris Stone

“We are basically calling on our political leaders to advocate and pass legislation that will help keep our students and our community safe,” he said.

All kinds of students, from elementary school to college, helped out, Elnakib said.

The Trump administration issued a statement Saturday about the nationwide demonstrations through Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters.

“We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today,” Walters said. “Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president’s, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence Acts, and signed them into law.

“Additionally, on Friday, the Department of Justice issued the rule to ban bump stocks, following through on the president’s commitment to ban devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.”

— City News Service contributed to this report.