Here’s why March For Our Lives organizers are leaving chairs empty at this weekend’s town hall events
The student-led March For Our Lives on Saturday, March 24th was a monumental success. The movement saw more than 800 rallies in one day and kept the message of gun control in the national dialogue. Still, the work of these student activists is far from over. In their first follow-up action, March For Our Lives organizers have partnered with the Town Hall Project to demand a string of town halls across the nation this weekend — and beyond — in a series of events known as “Town Hall For Our Lives.”
Town Hall For Our Lives aims to connect elected officials with their constituents for a discussion addressing the epidemic of gun violence in America. More than 100 events in 34 states have already been scheduled, according to ABC News, with many expected to draw big citizen crowds. But it’s who won’t be in attendance that is perhaps making the loudest statement.
To symbolize the lawmakers who were invited to participate but declined — many of whom, but not all, are Republican, it should be noted — seats will be left empty to draw attention to their non-attendance. Representing the inaction of legislators in the face of repeated mass shootings, the empty seats send a powerful message about the priorities of our elected officials.
Simply put, too many of our lawmakers aren’t here for us, nor the principles behind the Town Hall For Our Lives events.
As of Friday morning, 33 Democratic representatives had confirmed their attendance. However, no Republican lawmakers have publicly committed to attending, despite the more than 70 town halls expected to take place in GOP-led districts so far.
Parkland student and shooting survivor David Hogg first raised the idea of hosting town halls to specifically address gun reform the day after the March For Our Lives. He also encouraged would-be organizers to invite their lawmakers’ political opponents, should their sitting representatives decline the invitation.
We honestly can’t think of a better way to say, “Take this seriously, or we’ll vote you out!”
Town Hall Project executive director Jimmy Dahman, a former organizer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, told The Huffington Post the students’ efforts were “incredibly inspiring.”
"These students have shown great determination in wanting to engage in the democratic process," Dahman said. "It's elected officials' responsibility to listen to their constituents. Democracy is best served when the people show up."
The students behind the #NeverAgain movement have done an incredible job encouraging dialogue between citizens and lawmakers. Still, as awesome as they are, they can’t do it alone. If you’d like to organize a future town hall in your area, visit the Town Hall Project website and let your voice be heard.