From the archives

New York 1989 -Ladder 24

In 1987 while photographing in NY, I came across the tail end of a fire. Having missed the action, I chatted with the firemen.

Back in London, I contacted the brigade and arrange to document the daily life of ‘Ladder 24’. Everything was secured for October 1989 as I was already flying over to cover election night at the Smithsonian where vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle was scheduled to appear.

Now what are the odds of spending days and nights with the NY fire brigade and not be called to a fire? Apparently, it was unheard of, only false call outs and minor incidents! I was seen as a lucky mascot personally keeping New Yorkers safe for those few days!

I think it could be time for a re-visit!

The photographer at work!

Grenfell Tower Remembered -Three years on.

Three years ago on 14 June 2017, in the early hours of the morning, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington, West London. The world woke up to the devastating images of that Tower block engulfed in flames. As soon as I could after dropping my son off at school, I raced across London  and joined the throngs of people from every aspect of the community coming together to help in anyway they could. I spent three days at the site, documenting the aftermath of the fire, then days photographing the consequential protests and then Memorial service held at St Pauls in December 2017.

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On 16 November 2017, following months of forensic investigations inside the burnt out shell of the tower, the death toll was confirmed at 72. This included Logan Gomes, who was stillborn on the day of the fire. Her heavily pregnant mother, escaped from the 21st floor, but suffered severe smoke inhalation on her way down.

 

The Westway Sports and Fitness Centre became one of the focal points for clothing donations.

 

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The slide show above documents the scenes immediately after the fire.  Donations had been pouring in non-stop for about 24 hours. Volunteers sorted the clothing – boxed them up and loaded them on to awaiting vans. However the vans had nowhere to take them as warehouse space was in short supply and none of the local community centres had capacity to take any more donations.

 

Mixed emotions of the community – shock, grief, anger but most of all resilience.

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United in grief, all faiths gathered to pray for those who had perished, on that catastrophic day.  Two outdoor services occurred on Sunday 18th June in temperatures above 30C.  One, underneath the blackened shell of the tower block, conducted in both English and Arabic and despite being in the middle of Ramadan, Muslims came out to honour the dead. The second, a Christian gospel service, underneath the Westway, took the form of thunderous singing and praying and the release of balloons into the cloudless summer skies.

 

Just one of the many protests held in London.

 

Grenfell memorial service at St Paul’s.

On 14th December, exactly six months after the fire, mourners gathered on the steps of St Paul’s after attending a memorial service. Some held white roses, other clutched onto photographs of loved ones who had lost their lives.

“Today we remember with sorrow, with grief, with tears. Today we ask why warnings were not heeded, why a community was left feeling neglected, uncared for, not listened to. Today we hold out hope that the public inquiry will get to the truth of all that led up to the fire at Grenfell Tower…and we trust that the truth will bring justice.” Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington.

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“Gone but not forgotten, you are so dearly loved by us all and will be sadly missed by many. May you rest in eternal peace, with love always” Raymond Bernard’s family, known as Moses to his friends, died in the fire aged 63.

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Update 14th June 2020. 

According to the survivors, nothing has changed.

An estimated 246 buildings still have Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding and the public inquiry has yet to come to a conclusion (hearing stopped due to Covid-19 but will resume 6th July).

A road less travelled….Happy new Year!

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Mt Etna, Sicily

As the year ends and a new decade begins, I would just like to wish you all a Happy New Year!

Having been in this photography business for over 30 years and discovering that I still don’t have an appropriate festive photo to share with you, I thought I’d approach this is in slightly different way.

I love ‘road trips’. . . full stop.

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Nova Scotia

I love going forward and detest turning back. In fact, I’d rather carry on driving/walking forward even if it takes far longer, than re-tracing my tracks. Over many years, I’ve travelled far and wide covering editorial stories and share Ralph Waldo Emerson’s adage that ‘It’s not the Destination, It’s the journey.’

Give me Robert Frost’s road less travelled, or a long winding road, or, better yet . . . a path leading to a great unknown, to new further journeys, and certainly to the unexpected challenges of a new year.

Recently, I took on a mentor (Jeff Brown) and I can’t wait to work with him in the new year. So new ventures and journeys are already on the horizon!

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Logging roads, Borneo.  Road leading to Maronite monastery, Lebanon

Last Christmas year we visited the beautiful city of Prague for the first time. This year we went back to Yorkshire, to Leeds, to my roots.

Where will your journey take you this new year?  Will it be a physical journey or a ‘work/career’ journey that you have planned ……..whatever it may be I wish you all the best for 2020!

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I salute you. Ugandan bush man.

2019 International Photography Awards

I’m a happy bunny! I’ve just received an honorable mention in the International Photography Awards 2019 for my set of images on ‘The Great Strahov Stadium – architectural remnants of Prague’s Communist past’ (Categories: Architecture, Historic).

IPA CLICK HERE

The Great Strahov Stadium – architectural remnants of Prague’s Communist past

“Prague does not have its name for no reason – in truth, 
Prague is a threshold between the life on Earth 
and Heaven, a threshold much thinner and narrower then in any other places…” 
― Gustav Meyrink (author ‘The Golem’)

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

Strahov Stadium – the world’s largest stadium and second largest sports venue ever built.

Winter in Prague. Our first trip EVER to this ‘City of a Hundred Spires’, with its famous Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square, Astronomical Clock, to name but a few noteworthy tourist destinations.  Yet on Petřín hill, overlooking this old city of bridges and cobbled streets, sits the imposing, decaying, colossal Strahov Stadium.

We found it by accident. Our entertaining taxi driver, disgusted by the traffic, turned his cab around and went the back way!  ‘Interesting,’ we thought, as we peered through steamed up windows to look at the incredible views as we headed uphill. The famous Panelák Tower Blocks (a visible reminder of its Communist past) stretched out on the horizon like an anatomical backbone of Prague.

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As the taxi reached the top, a massive abandoned edifice, devoid of tourists (hard to believe in this mecca of tourism), stood before us. I made a mental note to come back to photograph this place!

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

The playing field is 63, 500 square metres.

So on a bitterly cold winter’s afternoon, whilst the city below huddled warm in the restaurants and bars, we headed up the hill to explore one of Prague’s unexposed landmarks.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

The first impression is its gargantuan size. The scale of this monstrous architectural structure is staggering. It’s quite remarkable to find such an enormous abandoned site in modern day Europe.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

Then there’s the colour palette, or in this case, the lack of it. Menacing grey skies juxtaposed next to crumbling dark grey facades, you could just feel the isolation, it breathed an ethereal, wrath-like quality.

I must admit I obsessed over all the steps and staircases! Their brulalistic structure created negative and positive shapes, reminiscent of Russian graphics.  I regret that I failed to access the stadium itself. Security guards appeared from thin air at the mere thought of crossing the ‘Do not enter’ and  ‘No trespassing’ signs!

To some, this complex may look like an eyesore — a crumbling concrete relic sitting like an albatross frozen in time, full of modern day graffiti, political slogans and flaking paint. Yet to others, including me, it evokes a concoction of mixed emotions … exciting, exhilarating, yet slightly terrifying because of its symbolism. I was wandering around part of an historical era I never witnessed — Prague’s painful past — one of the city’s remaining symbols, a final trace of the dark days of 41 years of totalitarian communist rule.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

Sporting history

The stadium, originally of wooden construction, was erected in 1926, based on the architectural plans of Alois Dryák (1872 -1932) and used for military parades and sporting events (Sokol movement). By the time Dryák died, concrete had replaced the wooden grandstands, with further major constructions taking place between 1948  and 1975.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

It was during the Communist regime (1948 to the 1989 Velvet Revolution) that the stadium became legendary for mammoth displays of mass synchronised gymnastics, known as the Spartakiada festivals. The first Spartakiad dates to 1955 as a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Red Army liberation of Czechoslovakia.  Subsequent celebrations were held every 5 years. Even though many people volunteered, participation for students and soldiers was obligatory and hence became seen as a symbol of Soviet oppression.

The emphasis was the importance of ‘group’ rather than ‘individual’.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

‘Under communism, the symbolic potential of the body was multiplied in the mass gymnastic displays in order to portray society as disciplined, strong, happy and beautiful and thus to legitimize its leadership’.

Politics of Gymnastics: Mass Gymnastic Displays Under Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. Peter Roubal.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

Ventilation tower for Strahov tunnel.

At the 1960 event, approximately 750,000 gymnasts performed with over 2,000,000 spectators watching in the stands (Google ‘Spartakiada 1960 Praha’ to see the unbelievable videos on YouTube).

The last Spartakiad was held here in 1985 and the stadium then underwent many transformations, including reinventing itself as a motor racing and a pop/rock concert venue. In 1990, it hosted the Rolling Stone’s with an audience of 150,000. Other notable concerts included Guns N’ Roses, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith to name but a few.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

In 2003, part of the stadium was reconstructed to create eight football fields and became the training centre for the Czech football club Sparta Prague. In this same year, it was also listed as one of UNESCO’s cultural heritage sites.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

Over the year’s numerous ideas have been floated about the stadium’s future. These included: a shopping centre, hotel, leisure centre, restaurants. All of these idea were withdrawn citing issues with the stadiums’s historical legacy.

In 2014, the city eventually took ownership after resolving a complex set of property ownerships and tenures of the site.

The Great Strahov Stadium. Prague, Czech Republic

While it’s future still remains undecided, this jaw-dropping edifice remains a memorial to communism, totalitarianism and architectural brutalism.

Even though money making property developers may find it deplorable that so much developable land remains undeveloped, I found it remarkably encouraging that it still stands, abandoned since the 1990’s as a testament, for good or for bad, to times gone by.

If left to rot, the developers will win in the end!

 

Let us remember……14.2.18

February 14th, 2018.

As we all go about our daily lives today, let us remember the 17 lives lost in the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida.

March For Our Lives, Washington DC, 2018

March for Our Lives, Washington D.C. (March 24, 2018)

 

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March for Our Lives was among the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War era, with an estimated 800,000 turn out.

It is now time to end this violence and to stop all the unnecessary deaths caused by guns. 

13th Annual Black & White Spider Awards

A great way to start 2019 with the news that two of my images from Bosnia/Croatia have won awards! The images were taken yonks ago…way back in 1998, two years after the war had ended.

In this year’s Black & White Spider Awards there were 6,404 entries from 77 countries so very honoured to have been selected!

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Honorable Mention in the Photojournalism category. “The Aftermath of War” Medic’s (MSF) helping the elderly & vulnerable, Croatia. Two years after the War had ended, 1998.

 

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Nominee in the People category. “Bird woman” Feeding the pigeons, Bascarsija square in the old town, Sarajevo. 1998.

To view other images from the series CLICK here

The live online gala was attended by over 17,000 photography fans around the globe who logged on to watch the climax of the industry’s most important event for black and white photography.

“Once again, another stunning collection of high quality entries both professional and amateur. It’s always inspiring to see this classic medium being stretched into new and interesting directions.” Said juror Marcel Wijnen, Creative Director at Anthem Worldwide/Marque Branding in Sydney. Cultural Heritage Consultant Andrea de Polo from Fratelli Alinari Photography Museum in Florence added “The quality of work is incredible and for the jury selecting the best images is very hard work.”

“It’s an incredible achievement to be selected among the best from the 6,404 entries we received this year” said Basil O’Brien, the awards Creative Director. “Jacky Chapman’s images entered in the Photojournalism and People categories, represents black and white photography at its finest.”

BLACK AND WHITE SPIDER AWARDS is the leading international award honouring excellence in black and white photography. This celebrated event shines a spotlight on the best professional and amateur photographers worldwide and honours the finest images with the highest achievements in black and white photography.

http://www.thespiderawards.com

The ‘B’ word …… in pictures

Saturday 20th October 2018. Central London, UK. Thousands swarmed central London for the People’s Vote march.

London, UK. 20th October, 2018.People's Vote march for new Brexit referendum.

Which way will the wind blow? 

An estimated 700,000 demonstrators marched from Park Lane to Parliament Square in a bid to persuade the British government to hold a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

London, UK. 20th October, 2018.People's Vote march for new Brexit referendum.

Tearful father with young daughter listening to the speeches in Parliament Square.

Down with this sort of thing.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan addressed the crowds at Parliament Square along with representatives from the main political parties. Celebrity speakers included Steve Coogan, Delia Smith and Deborah Meaden.

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Even the pooches came out in force to demand a ‘Wooferendum’……

London, UK. 20th October, 2018. People's Vote march for new Brexit referendum.

People's Vote march for new Brexit referendum.Brexit reading

To view more images click here

The British public voted to leave the EU by a margin of 51.89% to 48.11% in June 2016. The UK is scheduled to leave on 29 March 2019, under the terms of the two-year Article 50 process.  On 14th November, Teresa May published a 585 page draft withdrawal agreement agreed with the EU at negotiator level,  creating mayhem and almost leading to a vote of no confidence.

People's Vote march for new Brexit referendum.

People’s Vote march for new Brexit referendum. London, UK. 20th October, 2018.

In just over a weeks time, the PM’s Brexit deal will be either approved or rejected by parliament.  Many think the deal will be rejected leading to further chaos and even a constitutional crisis. All eyes are on Westminster, although an EU Summit on the 13th and 14th of December may put the EU leadership in the limelight.  No final act in this extraordinary soap opera is apparent, only the daunting date of departure, 29th March 2019.

 

Rebuilding life in war-torn Bosnia and Croatia 1998.

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Bird woman, Bascarsija square in the old town, Sarajevo. 1998.

In January 1998, I was fortunate to accompany a small group of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – Doctors without Borders, as they carried out their work in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia. Despite the fact that this was two years after the war had ended, the images still depicted a country ripped apart by war.

 

Throughout the war in the former Yugoslavia, MSF ran surgery programs, distributed medical supplies and drugs to hospitals and clinics, operated mobile clinics and worked in refugee camps.

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The Médecins Sans Frontières mobile team at a make shift doctors surgery in Ostrovo, Croatia.

MSF provided health care to elderly and vulnerable populations in approximately 12 remote villages in the region until March 1998. The patients were mainly elderly Serbs.

 

A Catholic Croat, praying outside his bombed out home, Ostrovo, Croatia. He describes his place as “not fit for a dog to live in” 1998.

 

Vukovar

The Balkan conflict left its mark on the town of Vukovar — nicknamed ‘Croatian Stalingrad, the martyred city’. The nickname originates from being devastated by Serb-dominated army forces in the early days of Croatia’s war for independence from the ex-Yugoslavia. It suffered a three-month long siege before being captured by Serb forces in November 1991 (AKA Battle of Vukovar).

Vukovar was once proud of its ethnic diversity.  In a 1990’s survey from before the war, statistics show that roughly 23 or so ethnic groups then lived in the town. Mixed couples made up 34 per cent of all marriages. From my recent online research (2018) it is a different story, it’s a divided city. Croats and Serbs now live separate social lives.  Schools, cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and even radio stations have been re-established according to their ethnicity.

 

 

Living in a mixed family.

Vukovar, Croatia,1998

 

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Vrbanja Bridge, Sarajevo. Re- named the Suada and Olga Bridge. On April 5, 1992 two anti-war protesters, Suada Dilberović and Olga Sučić, were killed on this bridge. They are believed to be the first victims shot at the beginning of the Siege of Sarajevo.

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Romeo and Juliet Bridge, Sarajevo.

On 19th May 1993, Admira Ismić and Boško, were also killed by snipers while trying to cross the Vrbanja bridge to escape the war torn city.  Boško (Bosnian Serb) was shot by sniper fire, and died immediately.  Despite being wounded, Ismić (Bosniak Muslim) managed to crawl over to Boško before dying next to his body.

Their story was told worldwide as Serbs and Muslims argued over who was responsible for shooting them and which side should venture out on to the bridge to recover them. The couple’s bodies lay side by side on the bridge for eight days, until finally the Serbian side went in under cover of night to drag the bodies away. Muslim prisoners later claimed they were tethered by their Serbian captors and forced to go out on the bridge to drag the decaying bodies back.

Snow covered cemetery, Sarajevo, 1998

Snow covered cemetery, showing mass killings in 1993, Sarajevo, 1998

Exact figures of casualties during the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-96) are still disputed, but it is estimated that approximately 19,000 people died, 10% of them children.  Some 18,000 Serbian troops, stationed in the hills surrounding city, besieged the 340,000 citizens with constant artillery, mortar, sniper and heavy machine-gun fire. Aside from the human cost of war, the cities infrastructure also suffered greatly – buildings, roads, waterworks, power supplies. A recent report suggests that the Serb forces caused an estimated $18.5billion of damage.

Workers re-cobbling the pavement near Bascarsija square in the o

During the 1992-1995 war, Grbavica was occupied early by the Army of Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Army) and remained under Serb control throughout the siege. From the tall residential buildings, Serb snipers targeted the Sarajevo populace along Sniper Alley. The neighbourhood was heavily looted and destroyed.

A country destryed. A man strolls by bombed out buildings near the front line, Grbavica, Sarajevo.

Grbavica, a neighbourhood of Sarajevo was one of the most traumatised neighbourhoods in the city.

 

 

Land mines were used extensively during the war by all sides in the conflict: about 1.5 million were laid across the country between 1991-95.  In 1997, more than 600,000 refugees still remained outside the country; landmines have impeded the return of many.  Those who do return often find that their land has become a minefield.  These returning refugees have little mine awareness and having been away from their communities, they do not know the location of minefields. There are thought to be still between 51,000 and 100,000 mines covering a 310-square-mile area across the country. At least 509 people have been killed and another 1,466 wounded by the devices in Croatia since the war ended.

"Danger-Mines!' Tape warns that homes are still booby trapped with mines. Many refugees have been killed by landmines and booby traps after returning to their homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina

It is feared that the minefields will never be cleared.

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March For Our Lives. Washington DC, USA

24th March 2018

'Please don't shoot'. Three female students holding protest signs. March For Our Lives rally against gun violence  on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.

It’s time for change.

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Panoramic view of Pennsylvania Avenue from the rooftop terrace of The Newseum.

The older I get the faster time seems to fly.  It’s been a very long time since my last post and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve now only just got round to posting about an extremely important event that I covered at the beginning of this year in Washington DC.  March for Our Lives took place on 24th March 2018. The main event was in DC, but many other cities across the US and abroad participated.  It was estimated that some 800,000 protested in DC and a total of approx 1.2 and 2 million people demonstrated in other parts of the States, making it one of the largest youth protests in US history since the Vietnam War.

Young boy with homemade protest sign. March For Our Lives rally against gun violence  on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Events leading up to the mass protests:

  • 1st October, 2017: Mass shooting. Music Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada. 58 people killed 851 injured.
  • 5th November, 2017: Mass shooting. First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas. 26 people killed 20 injured.
  • February 14, 2018: Mass shooting. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida.  17 students/staff killed 17 injured.

 

America had had enough. Following these latest four mass shootings in as many months, a huge number of American’s were demanding greater gun control, including universal background checks on all gun sales, a ban on the sale of high capacity magazines and bump stocks, and raising the federal age of gun procession and ownership to 21. The horrific massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School inspired student survivors to launch ‘The March For Our Lives’ campaign with the intent to convince lawmakers to address the issue of gun violence and school shootings.

On 14th February I submitted a sculpture into the Royal Academy Summer Show. Entitled  ‘Eleven years under’ it represents the 732 children (aged between 0-11) killed or injured by guns during  2017 in the USA.  As I pressed the submit button the horrific news came in of a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.  Unfortunately my piece wasn’t accepted but it did fuel a further drive within me to fly out to Washington DC to document the every growing protest and be a part of history.

 

The power of silence.

When Emma González, 18, (prominent activist and survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting) took to the stage, the crowds grew silent. Her speech took just six minutes and twenty seconds – the exact time it took for Nikolas Cruz to shoot her schoolmate

“Six minutes, and about 20 seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 more were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered. Everyone who was there…..  understands.

Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands. For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not  knowing……..

For those who still can’t comprehend, because they refuse to, I’ll tell you where it went. Six feet into the ground, six feet deep. Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15, and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice. Aaron Feis would never call Kyra ‘Miss sunshine,’ Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother Ryan, Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp, Helena Ramsay would never hang around after school with Max, Gina Montalto would never wave to her friend Liam at lunch, Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan. Alaina Petty would never, Cara Loughren would never, Chris Hixon would never, Luke Hoyer would never, Martin Duque Anguiano would never, Peter Wang would never, Alyssa Alhadeff would never, Jamie Guttenberg would never, Jamie Pollack would never”.  

Transcript Of Emma Gonzalez’s March For Our Lives Speech.

 

 

Emma González then fell silent for six minutes twenty seconds. The power of that silence was deafening.

 

 

 

 

“Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and 20 seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting, and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.”  Emma González

 

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Following the demo, the March For Our Lives Movement embarked upon a national tour across America to educate and encourage young people to register to vote. Now, seven months later, and with the US midterm elections swiftly approaching, has the March For Our Lives movement had any effect? We will just have to wait, see and pray.

 

Enough is enough!

To see more images click here

March For Our Lives