PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Hundreds of South Floridians came together this weekend to call on lawmakers to enact gun reform legislation, as they took part in “March for Our Lives” events that drew thousands of people across the country.
From Parkland and Weston to Coral Gables, protesters made their voices heard loud and clear on Saturday.
“We need to provide protection for our students,” said a woman at the Parkland event, which took place about a mile and a half away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Sixteen-year-old Zoe Weissman, the director of March for Our Lives Parkland, said she felt compelled to be part of the change.
“We just want people to realize that we’re still here. We’re not going to stop fighting until we get comprehensive gun violence prevention,” she said.
Weissman was in West Glades Middle School, located next door to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, when the mass shooting happened on Feb. 14, 2018.
Along with so many others who showed up on Saturday despite rainy weather, Weissman and other organizers want to pressure lawmakers to make a change.
Also on hand was Debbie Hixon, who lost her husband during the Parkland massacre.
“We can do better, and we deserve better,” she said. “Universal background checks, red flag laws, the idea that we’re keeping firearms out of the hands of people who are known to either want to harm themselves or others.”
Passionate pleas were also heard in Weston, where hundreds more came together.
“It affects everyone. No matter what your age, sex, religion, anything is, it affects everyone,” said organizer Gowri Abhinand, “so it’s important to actually address this issue. It’s not about party lines, it’s about coming together to find a solution.”
In Coral Gables, a large crowd gathered outside City Hall, where a rally drew between 200 and 300 people.
“It shows that the American people, the majority of the people want gun safety laws,” said protester Bryan Hernandez.
Speakers in Coral Gables included Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, students and activists. Their message was the same: they said this is the time for change.
“We’re beyond scared, we’re angry, and we want our children, our public places safer,” said a protester who identified herself as Bernadette.
One of the youngest protesters at the Coral Gables rally, third grader Emily Reyes, said she’s tired of feeling unsafe in her own school.
“I don’t want my teachers to be teaching me how to run and hide when they’re supposed to be teaching me their regular stuff, by doing, like, reading, math and stuff I’m supposed to be learning,” she said.
After the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, demonstrators hope this is the tipping point for gun reform.
“We need you to vote for lawmakers who believe in what the general population of America believes in,” said Hixon, “and that is that we can do better, and we deserve better.”
“It means a lot to see how many people care for our mission. At the same time, it also gives me hope that we’re going to be able to make a change,” said Weissman.
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