Alumnus Leads New York City March for Our Lives and Its 175K Attendees

Alex Clavering '13 wanted to participate in the New York City March for Our Lives, but couldn't find an organizer. So he decided to step in.
July 19th, 2018 by 

Alex Clavering on the streets of New York during the march.
Alex Clavering on the streets of New York during the March For Our Lives. Courtesy of Alex Clavering

Clavering and Kelly Rogers, an 18-year-old student at The City University of New York and New York City March creative director, address the crowd
Clavering and Kelly Rogers, an 18-year-old student at The City University of New York and New York City March creative director, address the crowd. Courtesy of Alex Clavering

A shot of the crowd, which exceeded 175,000 people.
A shot of the crowd, which exceeded 175,000 people. Courtesy of Alex Clavering

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for a photo with Clavering
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for a photo with Clavering. Courtesy of Alex Clavering

On Feb. 14, 2018, I received a news alert on my phone that there was a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. As the day progressed and I learned more about the horrific event, I texted friends asking if they had heard. The response was muted, but generally consistent: This was a normal occurrence in America. I thought about my former students, whom I had taught through a Fulbright fellowship overseas just after graduating; I thought about their excitement to learn, their vulnerability and innocence, and my role as their mentor, guide and protector. How had a place of learning become a battlefield?

When the students of Parkland issued a call to action for a nationwide march calling for new gun legislation — March For Our Lives — I felt a strong need to support them. I jumped at the opportunity to participate, hoping that action might ease my despair and transform it into something real and impactful.

I began by looking for organizing groups on social media, but I couldn’t find anything. Surprised, I decided to create a Facebook group, which I envisioned would coordinate the efforts of about 30 or so friends and classmates to attend a march. Without any expectation, it swelled into the planning apparatus for the city’s major event. Within 24 hours we had more than 15,000 people expressing an interest in attending. Through pure happenstance, our group was quickly regarded as the official organizing body for the New York City march.

I convened meetings with local gun violence prevention community groups and established a fundraising effort. The support was incredible and immediate; we raised $25,000 in 10 days. Having never done so before, I somewhat haphazardly applied for a city parade permit — at first for a turnout of 3,000 to 5,000 people. By the end of the first week, due to the swelling numbers of people expressing interest, I had to change the estimated attendance to 30,000. On the day of the march, the mayor’s office ultimately estimated that nearly 200,000 people marched with us.

The early days of organizing were chaotic and intimidating. Our small core of student organizers, who were from high schools, colleges and graduate schools across New York, had limited organizing experience. Oftentimes, we Skyped late into the night, foregoing school assignments and our personal lives for what we saw as a more pressing commitment. Our energy matched the national atmosphere, drawing similarly outraged and emboldened groups quickly into our circle.

Over time, more established gun control groups got in touch with us, offering to connect us to others and, eventually, to help provide funding. Even with all the tremendous outpouring of support, the planning still required tremendous dedication by dozens of students and organizers, working tirelessly to make the event possible. Students controlled predominantly every aspect of the process: Across the board they organized, made important decisions and worked with political offices and grassroots organizations all over New York state.

It was incredible to be at the center of such an intensive group organizing effort, but it wasn’t without difficulties. The scale, time pressure, competing interests and all-around public scrutiny tried my patience and persistence more than once. What lifted me out of those low moments was the hope that the culminating event would be impactful, meaningful and maybe even politically significant. It was bigger than me, than us.

I am most proud of one aspect of our organizing in particular, which I believe contributed to the success of the march and to its lasting currency in subsequent political efforts. We emphasized and centered around the participation and experiences of New Yorkers, especially people of color who are disproportionately impacted by the scourge of gun violence. On the day of our rally, we didn’t just hear the stories of Parkland students and their parents, we also heard from grassroots organizers from gun violence prevention groups all over the city, student leaders from Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, and the founder of the Wear Orange movement, created as a reaction to gun violence on the streets of Chicago.

We didn’t want to focus on gun violence as a myopic issue that only impacted schools; we knew that the stories of the destructive impact of gun violence in communities of color had to be told. In this way, we were able to bring together a broad coalition of allies. On the day of our march, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo marched next to Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, as organizers from local organizations such as Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. marched with organizers from massive national organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety.

Clavering with participant Sir Paul McCartney. Courtesy of Alex Clavering

More than 175,000 people marched in New York City on the day of our event. According to estimates, across the United States at least 1.2 million people marched, and the Associated Press reported it was one of the largest youth protests since the Vietnam War. Standing on the stage at Columbus Circle, looking out at the mass of excited, engaged and willing protestors, I was overcome with a sense of humility and gratitude. That moment made all of the work worth it, and I often conjure it up for strength in the continuing, always challenging, fight for gun control.

I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to work with the incredible students and organizations who made this event possible. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it is that we shouldn’t expect other people to take action to do things that are right. Being a person who serves others means taking action in spite of cynicism and inertia. And while it is obviously not always the case, sometimes, when you work very hard and try to do what you believe is genuinely right, amazing things can happen.

This was just the first step. Our organizers, students and newfound allies are energized like never before. The next step is taking this momentum and turning it into real, concrete change. This is a movement, not a moment.


Written by Alex Clavering ’13 for the Summer 2018 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine

Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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The 53rd annual Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture will be held April 2, 2019 in the...
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Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/2/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This two-day conference highlights a new, historically-sensitive...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/2/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Assumption College Graduate School Info Table
4/2/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 3
Stop by the Assumption College Graduate School Info Table...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/2/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/3/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/3/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/3/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Readings from the Roots is a new, historically-sensitive translation...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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Ira Sukrungruang
4/4/2019
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Thursday, April 4thIra Sukrungruang (multi-genre)READING 7:30PM...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/4/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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MID Club
4/5/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
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Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/5/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/6/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/6/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/7/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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Community Dance Workshop with Ronald K. Brown
4/8/2019
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
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COPE Well Week
4/8/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
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MPE Meeting (Event canceled)
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
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MPE Meeting
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
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Once in a Lifetime
4/8/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Hester/Craig Debate
4/9/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
Is theistic belief rational in a scientific age? Listen in on a conversation...
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COPE Well Week
4/9/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Once in a Lifetime
4/9/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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COPE Well Week
4/10/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
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City Year Info Table
4/10/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 4
Stop by the City Year Info Table for learn more about this...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/10/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Lecture: Glenn Loury on the Ethics of Affirmative Action Policies in Higher Education
4/11/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences,...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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COPE Well Week
4/11/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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MID Club
4/12/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
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Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/13/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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Holy Cross Jazz Ensemble Spring Concert
4/16/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
An evening of Big Band Jazz music that plays from the Classic to the...
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American International College Graduate Programs Info Table
4/16/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the American International College Graduate Programs...
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Community Dance Workshop with Ronald K. Brown
4/22/2019
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
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Holy Cross Orchestra Concert
4/24/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
The Holy Cross College Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s...
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Manusripts, Inscriptions & Documents Round Table Discussion
4/24/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Haberlin Hall 219
Open to the Public
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Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
O'Neil Hall 112
Open to the Public
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Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
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Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to the Public
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175th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
4/25/2019
Featured Employee
Outdoor starting at Hogan
This Scavenger Hunt is being put on by the Mission and Identity Subcommittee...
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Perkins Human Services Agency Info Table
4/25/2019
Center for Career Development Categories: Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the Perkins Info Table to learn more about this agency...
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H-CLEF Concert
4/26/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
Join the Holy Cross Laptop Ensemble Federation for an evening of silent...
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MID Club
4/26/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
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Holy Cross College Choir Concert
4/27/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Giacomo Carissimi was the first great composer of oratorios,...
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Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert - Pavel Kohout
4/28/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Pavel Kohout, OrganistInternational Concert Organist, Prague,...
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MPE Meeting
4/29/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
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Dance Concert
5/1/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Dance ConcertMay 1 at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PMFenwick Theatre – 2nd...
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Romantic Exile and Transnational Celebrity
5/2/2019
English
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Omar Miranda, assistant professor of English at the University of...
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Food Truck Festival
5/3/2019
Featured
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Outdoor Oval
Join the Office of Student Involvement for a Friday Night...
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MID Club
5/3/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
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Sanctae Crucis Selection Committee Meeting
5/9/2019
The Sanctae Crucis Awards
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
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MID Club
5/10/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
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See All