Thousands of students descend on Florida Capitol to demand gun control
Ryan Deitsch, calls out FL lawmakers and media in aftermath of Stoneman shooting James Call
FL Senator tells Stoneman students lawmakers are working as fast as they can to address gun violence James Call
Sen Rob Bradley tells students lawmakers are working as fas as they can on gun laws James Call
The Florida House of Representatives declared pornography a public health risk, just minutes after rejecting a motion to consider a bill that would ban assault rifles. Veuer's Sam Berman has the full story. Buzz60
During a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, Stoneman Douglas High School junior Lorenzo Prado shares his harrowing story of being mistaken for the shooter who killed 17 people at his school on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.
Lincoln High School senior Russelle Dirggers talks about participating in NeverAgain Rally on Feb. 21. Nada Hassanein/Democrat
Lawmakers and students speak at gun control rally at the Capitol
Raw video of Stoneman Douglas students
Stoneman Douglas students Mikayla Stravitz, 17, and her little sister Emma Stravitz, 14, share their stories from the Feb.14 shooting at their school during their day of advocacy with fellow students at the state Capitol.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas students speak at the Capitol
Stoneman students news conference
NeverAgain Rally: Survivors speaks at the rally
NeverAgain Rally: Gun control rally at the Capitol
Protesters have gathered at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee for the NeverAgain Rally on Feb. 21. Karl Etters/Democrat
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Crowd on the steps of the Old Capitol
Raw video from March Against Gun Violence
The March Against Gun Violence stretches from downtown to campus on College Avenue in Tallahassee
FSU marchers are bound for the capitol as they chant #NeverAgain for #ParklandStudents
Hundreds of people rallying outside of the Old Capitol.
Where's Rick Scott chant begins Alexia Pyun
Hundreds of students gathering at FSU’s Westcott Fountain ahead of March Against Gun Violence to the Capitol.
Students, a lot of them from Leon County have come out in droves today
Watch Stoneman Douglas student @juliabishopp and Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Fort Lauderdale, talk gun control as part of The students #neveragain visit to the Florida Capitol.
65 teachers from Broward County are here because those from Parkland couldn't be. "They're at funerals. Enough is enough"
NeverAgain Rally: March to the Capitol begins
Stoneman students meeting with Rep. Williams.
Students arriving from the Civic Center
MSD students gathering fully signed out "what do we want. Change. When do we want it? Now
Rep. Shaw of Tampa. "This is about you. This is not about us."
NeverAgain Rally: Stoneman Douglas survivors march on state Capitol
Local students greet Douglas survivors as Leon High School opens its doors
Students from Broward county speak with Republican legislators
Teenage survivors from the Stoneman Douglas shooting are in Tallahassee to tell lawmakers they want a ban on assault weapons. James Call
The names of the 17 people who lost their lives in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, are read during a candlelight vigil held for the victims at the Centre of Tallahassee Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.
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Angry and raw with emotion, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland took their pain, grief and call for action to the very steps of Florida lawmakers, demanding common-sense gun control to stem the tide of violence in the state and across the nation.
Sheryl Acquaroli, a junior who survived the Feb. 14 massacre at her high school, took the stage at the Old Capitol to rail against lawmakers in Congress and the Legislature. She was met by cries of “We love you” from the audience.
“How can you claim to stand for the people but let your kids get slaughtered like animals at their own school?” she shouted. “The 17 who were lost were not just a number ... they are people with stories and histories and families. You will not turn these 17 human beings into a statistic. You will not turn a blind eye to who they are. They are our students, our teachers and our coaches. And they died because you failed. And they are bigger heroes than you will ever be.”
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Florence Yared, an upperclassman at Stoneman Douglas, recalled that after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, she cut out paper snowflakes and mailed them to the school to honor the dead. She never imagined she could face the same horror.
“Exactly one week ago, my school was viciously attacked,” she said. “Seventeen of my classmates, friends and teachers died. No longer could I walk the halls I walked millions of times before without fear and sadness. No longer could I walk the halls without hearing the gunshots. No longer could I walk the halls without imagining the blood stains and dead bodies, all because of the damage a single AR-15 rifle caused.”
Wednesday’s rally was one of the biggest — and most deafening — the Capitol has seen in years. Capitol Police said that by noon, an estimated 3,000 people had gathered at the Old Capitol for the event, which was sponsored by the Florida League of Women Voters and the Florida Coalition to End Gun Violence. Police officials said it was a peaceful protest with no counter-demonstrations or arrests.
Hundreds of students, including high schoolers from Parkland, Tallahassee, Jacksonville and elsewhere, marched from Florida State and Florida A&M universities to the Capitol. They carried signs calling for gun control and chanted “Never again!," “Vote them out!” and "Enough is enough!" The students were joined by Democratic lawmakers, gun-control activists and others who said they’d had enough inaction from Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
While the rally went on outside, about 100 students from the Broward County school met with lawmakers and other officials. Coordinated by state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, they had 70 meetings scheduled throughout the day, including with Senate President Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. They met with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and had talks set with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Gov. Rick Scott.
Mark Kelly, whose wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was gravely wounded by a gunman in 2011, told the Parkland students he was “unbelievably impressed” by them. But he also urged young people, who typically turn out to vote in small numbers, to get to ballot boxes this year.
“You guys woke the country up,” he said. “Now the goal is to keep them awake.”
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, recalled the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people, including one of his friends, and wounded dozens more. After he was first elected later that year, he filed a bill to ban military assault weapons and large capacity magazines. It went nowhere.
“Seven months after the Pulse shooting, we got no hearing,” Smith said. “Just one day later was the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting. We got no hearing. A hundred and fifty-one days later was the workplace shooting in my district in east Orlando. We got no hearing.
"Two hundred and sixty-nine days later was Las Vegas. We got no hearing. Three hundred and four days later was Sutherland Springs. We got no hearing. Four hundred and five days later was Parkland. Are we going to get a (expletive) hearing?”
Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, whose push to hear Smith’s bill (HB 219) was voted down by Republicans on Tuesday, told the youthful crowd that the people in power had failed them. He urged them not to give up as they fight for tougher gun laws.
“There will be those that claim we are attempting to run over the Second Amendment,” McGhee said. “There will be those that say we are trying to take guns from the American people. But we are here to tell the same people there’s also the Eighth Amendment, which says that it is cruel and unusual punishment to allow our people, our kids, our teachers to be gunned down in schools and on the streets.”
Mayor Andrew Gillum, who led the march from FSU to the Capitol, recalled the Sandy Hook shooting, which killed 20 elementary school students and six staff members.
“The difference between what happened then and what happened a week ago today was that at Sandy Hook, those were babies, whose words were barely formed,” Gillum said. “And now what we have today is young people speaking out all across this state, all across this country with the power of their voice, with the power of their compassion, with the power of their ideas, with the power of their spirit that says enough is enough. That’s what’s going to be the power to get the kind of change that we need.”
Sarah Leitch, a high school senior from Jacksonville, traveled to Tallahassee to take part in the FSU march and the rally at the Capitol. She waved a sign saying, "One child is worth more than all the guns on earth."
"Even if nothing gets changed, it's so important to have our voices heard," she said. "And we need to show lawmakers that if they want to keep being complacent about gun violence, they're not going to get re-elected."Contact Jeff Burlew at email@example.com or on Twitter @JeffBurlew. Democrat reporters Jeffrey Schweers, Ashley White and Karl Etters contributed.