Protesters hopeful for change as they pour into DC for historic march

WASHINGTON (WSVN) — Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have made it to Washington D.C. in preparation for the massive March For Our Lives protest Saturday.

Friday night, the benefit concert “Stay Amped” took place in the nation’s capital ahead of the historic march. The musical event raised funds for programs that help prevent gun violence.

The message outside and inside the concert auditorium was the same. Hip-hop artist Lizzo addressed concertgoers about gun violence concerns.

“So many people — family, friends — have lost their lives to senseless gun violence, and at this point it’s like, why do we continue to let this happen?” she said.

Friday’s concert capped off a long and busy day for students who came to D.C. with messages of their own.

7News captured several students putting the finishing touches on the signs they will carry on Saturday.

“Since Columbine, we should have done something,” said MSD student Joselande Milius. “I don’t want to be in a school shooting, and I don’t want my kids to be in a school shooting.”

“We’re fighting for our lives at this point,” said MSD student Charles Kean. “Going to Washington, we’re knocking on their door now.”

Earlier on Friday, protesters gathered in front of the Capitol building.

Among the students and protesters in Washington, D.C. were the parents and grandmother of Stoneman Douglas shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff.

“Her voice was silenced by someone that came in and brutally murdered her with an AR-15 gun,” said Alhadeff’s mother, Lori Alhadeff.

The Alhadeffs stood by other Parkland students and politicians, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. They are all working to make sure their voices are heard.

“No family should ever have to go through the pain and anguish that we are going through ever again,” Lori said. “We need to make these changes to these gun laws, and they need to happen now.”

Others there included Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg, one of the many students in the spotlight advocating for gun control.

“To know that the American public and the world is behind us, we really need that. This is just the beginning,” Hogg said. “These politicians don’t care about these kids. If they actually did, they would have taken action during Sandy Hook. They would have actually stood up and said no, but they didn’t, and that’s why my school [shooting] happened.”

Students met with former Vice President Joe Biden and appeared with politicians on Capitol Hill, simply wanting someone in power to listen and do something.

MSD student activists also made the rounds on cable news shows on Friday.

“We support, if you’re gonna make your voice heard, then do it, by all means,” said MSD student Emma Gonzalez.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson spoke Friday on the smaller victories the protesters have already achieved.

“We’ve already seen it in the Florida Legislature, albeit a step forward, to get a three-day waiting period for the purchase of an assault rifle,” said Nelson.

Early Friday morning, the U.S. Senate passed a spending bill that allows for gun research and measures to improve the federal background check system.

However, students and advocates feel that bill is not enough.

“They’re small, but we’ve been trying to get those done for years. They only got done because of these students and the families and their activism,” said Florida Rep. Ted Deutch.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi gave students a pep talk early Friday evening while they were preparing for Saturday’s event.

“You have the power to mobilize in real time, and look at the results that you have produced already,” she said.

Pelosi told students not to give up hope if they feel their voices are not being heard.

“In terms of the people that they’re meeting, unless some of these people know there is a political consequence, they won’t do anything,” she said. “The answer is to vote.”

“We have finally succumbed to reality that which we can no longer bear,” said Stoneman Douglas student Demitri Hoth. “The fact that many students across the nation have to wake up every day with a reminder that in their head of what happens, of ‘What if I go to school and never come home?'”

The feeling of your child never coming home is something the Alhadeffs know very well, and something they want to make sure no other family ever has to go through again.

“It’s horrible. It’s horrible, but we’re giving her a voice,” said Alhadeff’s father, Ilan Alhadeff.

President Donald Trump tweeted out Friday, “Obama Administration legalized bump stocks. BAD IDEA. As I promised, today the Department of Justice will issue the rule banning BUMP STOCKS with a mandated comment period. We will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.”

As a point of clarification, the Obama administration determined that bump stocks were a gun part that could not be regulated under existing law.

However, protesters also consider any act or measure for gun control a win.

Many of the protesters said they have high hopes that Saturday’s march will lead to change, and that they plan on having more events in the months to come.

Nelson and fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio announced they are teaming up to try to get a federal law passed that would take guns off the hands of those individuals considered potentially dangerous. Florida has already passed such legislation at the state level.

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