Students say Parkland march is the heart of the movement
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — There is a flurry of activity in Parkland as a forklift heaves boxes of risers and barricades and a man climbs precariously high above lightning scaffolding. A 17-year-old student stands on a small platform directing it all, surrounded by nine classmates as they prepare for a march that could bring 30,000 supporters alongside a worldwide movement.
In the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting that killed 17, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have been hailed for their grass-roots movement that passed comprehensive gun reform in Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature and spawned school walkouts earlier this month with more than 1 million students participating across the country. They’ve been on the cover of Time magazine and garnered celebrity support from Oprah Winfrey, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga as they prepare for a Washington march and more than 800 sister marches around the world Saturday.
“We’re just regular students,” said Casey Sherman, a junior at Douglas who is spearheading the effort. “There’s students all across the world that are doing this. It’s hard to believe that somebody as seemingly small or unimportant in the grand scheme of things can do such amazing and great things. The scale that this has become is immeasurable.”
In the weeks since the shooting, she’s led meetings in hotel ballrooms directing adults on how to proceed, petitioned commissioners for a city permit, mapped out a march route with police, organized vendors and monitored fundraising.
She addressed a crowd of reporters Thursday night, speaking with ease as she discussed parking, shuttle buses and other logistics for the march she says is the heart of the movements, a mile from the school where mounds of flowers and white crosses still stand to memorialize the victims. A 90-minute rally will be held at the park where a candlelight vigil was held the night after the shooting before gatherers walk to the school.
Sherman was mum about the speaker and performance line-up, saying only that “it’s going to be a very different feel.”
Seventeen year-old classmates Sam Resnick and Johnny Greenberg have spent hours developing a smartphone app for the Parkland march, Be Heard, to share logistics with participants.
“We want to see more legislation changed so no other communities have to go through this,” said Resnick.
Freshman Christine Yared says she’s spent “almost every hour” handling the social media for the Parkland march.
Sherman and her classmates who are organizing the Washington march say a major goal is voter registration as they look to harness the support for March For Our Lives into change at the polls for mid-term elections.
“We can demand the change but we have to follow through with it,” said Sari Kaufman, a 15-year-old sophomore overseeing voter registration.
Sherman, who has volunteered with Jewish service organization Mitzvah Corp, structured volunteers into six teams including fundraising, logistics and publicity, appointing student leaders at the helm. Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar encouraged the students to get the city, county and school board behind the event and showed them the ropes of local government.
“They inspire me. I just came up with a couple of ideas, helped make some introductions,” said Kiar, a former state lawmaker. “They were like the closers that came on strong.”