Why there are more than 1,000 body bags on the National Mall

Spread out over a section of grass between 3rd and 4th streets Southwest on the National Mall in D.C., purposely within the shadows of the U.S. Capitol, are hundreds of black body bags — about 1,100, actually.

From now through the weekend, they’ve been laid out with a purpose, spelling out the words “Thoughts and Prayers.”

That phrase and those three words have been spoken so many times in recent years to the point that to anti-gun violence advocates, they simply mean “nothing. It’s all spectacle. It’s all BS. That’s all it is,” said David Hogg, a co-founder of the group March For Our Lives, which is behind the display.

Hundreds of black body bags have been placed on the National Mall in D.C. (WTOP/John Domen)

Hogg survived the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 and went on to help lead a march that drew thousands of people to D.C. four years ago Thursday.

“Each one of these body bags represent over a hundred people that have died since Parkland from gun deaths,” Hogg said. “What they spell out is ‘thoughts and prayers,’ which is the thing that we hear far too often from our politicians. Just send our thoughts and prayers over and over and over, don’t do anything, and then act like this is not going to be happening again.”

Daud Mumin, who is the co-chair of the board of directors for March For Our Lives, said the display represents human lives lost “because of inaction.”

“Not because it was natural, not because it was inevitable, but because we chose not to do anything, and when I say ‘we,’ I mean the U.S. Congress,” Mumin said.

“We really are using this installation of 1,100 body bags to really demonstrating what more thoughts and prayers gets us,” said Mumin. “It’s more body bags and it’s more people losing loved ones and friends and families and neighbors, and we wanted to bring out a stark reality of this is what it looks like, this is what it means.”

Today, the scorn from this organization isn’t just directed at Republicans, but also Democrats on Capitol Hill.

March For Our Lives has placed more than a thousand body bags on the National Mall to send a message to Congress. (WTOP/John Domen)

“They all asked us to vote for them, we rallied for them because they told us that they were going to pass common sense gun laws, and four years later, nothing,” said Kelly Choi, who is also on the board of directors. “That’s a slap in the face” that she said had lasting consequences for too many people.

“For the first time in a really long time, we have a gun safety majority within Congress,” she added. “People who had gun violence prevention policies within their campaigns. Even in the White House. Nobody has followed through with what they were saying. No one on either side.”

As discouraged as they are about the progress they’ve made at the federal level, Hogg said the four years since the first march aren’t without victories.

“We have changed things at the state level,” Hogg said. “Since starting, we’ve passed over 50 gun laws at the state level. In Congress, we’ve passed a number of funding measures at the CDC and NIH and we’ve done things to make sure that the Dickey Amendment, which is the amendment that stopped us from being able to really study the effectiveness of gun laws at the state level and CDC, effectively was repealed.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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