MUNICH — (MunichNOW News) — Five or six people gathered across from the United States Consulate in Munich on a breezy and sunny spring Saturday morning, carrying signs and talking quietly. Soon the low-key, but increasingly excited crowd grew to several hundred and the Munich March For Our Lives stepped off promptly at 11am for the march to Odeonsplatz and then on to Max-Weber-Platz.
As the crowd grew and the signs and posters were distributed, we talked with several families as the pre-march speeches were enthusiastically received.
Americans Suzanne and Kevin, with their two kids Nate and Stella (and Charlie, the dog), when asked why they were attending the march, were quick to reply, “we don’t want out kids to get shot!”. Without hesitation, Suzanne said that assault weapons should be banned and the age to purchase guns legally should be raised to 21. These same ideas were universally echoed throughout the crowd.
Native Pennsylvanians, the family loves life in Germany, with personal safety and universal healthcare being among their top priorities. Both Suzanne and Kevin have already requested their absentee ballots for the coming November mid-term elections.
“It is time to do something, we must act”, said Nicole and Jamie, Seattle area Americans with two kids, as they held up their elaborate homemade signs. “America has lost perspective on this issue, and also on healthcare”, they added.
“Healthcare is just another commercialized industry that puts the patient last”, Jamie offered. Both parents voted from here in 2016 and have already requested their ballots for November. Would they be concerned for the safety of their kids in school were they back in the States? “Absolutely, we would be fearful of a shooting. How could you not be?”
Lisa Yarger, co-owner of The Munich Readery, came to Munich from North Carolina to open the well-regarded English used book shop. Lisa said that she has voted regularly from here and is ready for the fall mid-terms. “I am sick and heartbroken about the gun violence and police violence in the States. My daughter Greta is Jewish and she has said time and again how she feels so much safer here in Germany than she does in America.”
As the husband of an American and the father of two kids, Munich resident Stefan has an inside look at both cultures. “Guns are just not that important to people here,” he said, “if you really want one, you can have one, but they are highly regulated and people want it that way. Citizens here are not fearful of their lives on a daily basis as the American NRA propaganda has convinced so many Americans.”
Stefan said he was concerned about the rise of the far right around the world along with the fake news that supports it. “My kids should not be afraid to go to school and Meghan and I should not have to worry about their safety every day.”
The Feldman Family
That the last family we spoke with had the most compelling story went without question. Brian and Pam Feldman are the parents of two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Florida. They were in the Netherlands, visiting their oldest daughter Rachel on her semester abroad. Their younger daughter, Erica, marching in Washington DC, was in the school on the day of the shooting.
Finding the Munich March in Facebook and having always wanted to see Germany, the Feldmans contacted the organizers, Munich Democrats Abroad, and came to Munich for the march.
All three family members related their highly emotional and personal accounts of having younger daughter Erica in the school, huddled with friends for more than three hours, hearing gunshots and the screams of fellow students. The assembled crowd was totally silent as mom, dad, and daughter recalled their deepest fears as the situation unfolded.
“We are teaching kindergarten, grade school, and high school kids how to hide from gunman in schools,” said Brian, “what kind of world is this? It was duck and cover when I was in elementary school, in fear of nuclear war. We solved that issue. We can solve this one. We must. These kids won’t let us fail again”.
The march organizers gave the Feldmans a large banner adorned with words of encouragement and sympathy along with some remembrances of Munich and Bavaria.