WASHINGTON — Two days before the March For Our Lives event in D.C., hundreds of volunteers showed up for a training session put on by the District and organizers of the event.
“I’d say the volunteers are critical. We couldn’t pull off this event without them,” said James Quinn, an organizer for the March For Our Lives.
After picking up bright green shirts and caps with “volunteer” on them, instruction began Thursday with a pep talk from several survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“It gave us a lot of motivation to see that we’re not alone in this and that all these people are here on their Thursday night to come out and support us,” said Adam Alhanti, a junior at the Florida high school.
As protesters plan to call for an end to gun violence in America during Saturday’s march, volunteers at the training session were instructed about their roles. Lindsey Parker, deputy chief of staff for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, told the crowd that they will serve as ambassadors for the District.
With event organizers unable to get a permit to use the National Mall, much of the March For Our Lives will take place in areas controlled by the city. Parker said time was short, but the city quickly pulled together a plan of action through Serve DC, a group Parker said organizes volunteers for First Amendment rallies and other special events in the city.
“We only had one opportunity for volunteers to be trained, and they all came out. We had, I think, well over 800 folks here, which is terrific,” Parker said.
Volunteers are expected to help the many visitors expected on Saturday with navigating the event, whether it’s helping visitors get to where they’re going or reuniting them with their group if they get separated.
For the police department, volunteers were asked to be their eyes and ears, and to report anything that seemed suspicious.
Many who attended the volunteer training had planned on attending March For Our Lives and decided to answer the call for help.
“I’ve been to many marches in my decades living in Washington, and I decided maybe it would be more helpful if I volunteered,” said Karin Johanson, of Northwest D.C.