MSD students speak with DC lawmakers, final preps underway for March For Our Lives

WASHINGTON (WSVN) — The stage for the March For Our Lives rally has been set one day before the event as students demand action on gun control.

In an effort to end school violence, nearly one million people from all around the world are expected to take part in Saturday’s march in Washington D.C.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, their families and supporters are already in the nation’s capital Friday, ahead of the big event.

An interfaith prayer service was held at the Washington National Cathedral, bringing 1,200 people together Friday night.

Stoneman Douglas students and victims’ families paid their respects to the 17 victims in the Parkland shooting.

The parents of Parkland shooting victim Carmen Schentrup spoke during the service.

“We miss her strength. We miss her courage,” said Carmen’s father, Philip Schentrup. “As parents, we loved that Carmen never grew out of giving us hugs, and would hug us every night as she went to bed. We miss her hugs. Carmen was funny and witty in novel ways.”

“This Lent has been full of pain and suffering for my family,” said April Schentrup, the teen’s mother. “As a woman of faith, I can say prayers have helped me find strength to get through each day and stand here before you. But as a mother who mourns the death of a child and fights to protect the future of her two other children, I can honestly say that prayers do not feel like enough.”

A number of speakers and performers will be on the main stage. The final sound and lighting checks are being performed, after Thursday night’s set up.

Students from across South Florida told 7News they spoke with senators and representatives to try to make changes to gun reform in the United States.

“Today, we spoke to a congressman and senators, trying to communicate our opinions to them,” said Western High School student Laura Allen. “Essentially, we’re trying to get them to empathize, and so hopefully, that empathy can translate onto the Senate floor, and hopefully get some bills passed and some legislation written.”

“What we want at first is these national background checks set by the federal government,” said Western High School student Henry Le. “There’s a lot of discrepancy between states, and with those discrepancies, those lead to problems.”

“We need to make sure that the entire country is safe, not just specific states,” said Stoneman Douglas student Lucia Carrero.

Carrero and Stoneman Douglas classmate Samantha Bonnin met with senators on Friday.

“There’s so Republican congress people that are not willing to make a change and that aren’t even working for the benefit of their constituents,” Bonnin said.

These Stoneman Douglas students have taken on a movement that some have compared to the Freedom Riders activists who took action in the Civil Rights era.

They have claimed what they describe as wins in the Florida capitol already, like changes to age requirements to buy certain guns, a waiting period for specific weapons and more.

On the national level, some say they want to eliminate semiautomatic firearms. “We need a ban — completely — on assault rifles, on AR-15s, on all of them,” Allen said.

Parents and their children from Parkland have also responded to Washington, D.C. for the march.

“We were right next to the school. We saw everything that was happening,” said student Logan Walsh. “We saw how everyone felt about it, and we saw the actions that us as a city tried to make change. I’ve seen what the students at Douglas and all the families and all the people in our city can do, at least on a state level, and I’m hoping that as all of us are gathering here, we can do it on a country level.”

His father, Chris Walsh, said that this is a part of history that they needed to be a part of.

“This is real-life history. This is a civics lesson that you can’t learn in class,” he said. “You come here and you’re gonna be part of hopefully making a huge change. In Florida, we’ve gotten the gun laws and the school safety laws changed, and hopefully they’ll see that we’re serious.”

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow Pollack was killed in the Feb. 14 shooting, has also traveled to Washington, D.C. for the march.

He spent his Friday meeting with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

“I’m here to really look into matters that’s gonna protect our kids,” Pollack said. “There’s evil people out there, like you see what happened with my daughter. There’s evil people in the world, and we owe it to our kids to feel safe when they go to school.”

Pollack has turned his focus to school safety and mental health.

“First, I think they need to hire the right security companies. We can’t leave it in the hands of the school board. They’re teachers. They don’t know about security,” Pollack said. “I’m not a professional security guy myself, so I would suggest they hire security firms that do this.”

He continued to say that he hopes real change can come out of this event. “My hats are off to them for coming all together. They’re forming a big march. I would just like them to be focused on something that’s achievable because they’re all gonna go to school Monday across the country, and I want them to ask themselves are their schools safer now since my daughter got murdered?”

Students will march alongside celebrities like Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. Those artists are expected to perform on stage.

Marches will make their way across the U.S. Capital, the White House and the Washington Monument.

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots sent his team plane to South Florida to offer a free flight for those who couldn’t otherwise afford a ticket to the Washington D.C. rally.

About 800 sister marches are also being organized across the country and even overseas.

“It’s gonna show our representatives, our senators that they are working for us,” Carrero said. “It’s time for them to hear their constituents.”

A section of the main stage area near Pennsylvania Avenue will be designated for Stoneman Douglas students and the victim’s families.

Washington D.C. Police and federal agents could be seen closing off some main roads that would lead to the main stage along Pennsylvania Avenue, Friday evening.

Police are set to be on hand for the event.

President Donald Trump won’t be in Washington for the march. Friday evening he was en route to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

The White House has not said if Trump will tune in to watch the march on Saturday, which will run from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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