Several students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and faculty were killed in a Feb. 14 school shooting were greeted with a prolonged standing ovation Thursday morning at a rally at D.C.’s Thurgood Marshall Academy High School.
The rally, held in support of Saturday’s student-led March For Our Lives against gun violence, set for downtown Washington, was organized by Marshall Academy students. The student organizers told several hundred students, teachers, and school administrators in attendance that they will be joining the Stoneman Douglas students at the Saturday march and rally on Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., between 3rd and 12th Streets.
Among those who spoke at the rally, in addition to the students, was D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, the school’s principal Melanie Sala, and school social studies teacher Karen Lee, who said she has been advising students on ways to become politically active for social justice causes.
“We’re here today in D.C. not only for our march but to make sure everyone – each and every single American that’s out there knows how we’ve been affected by guns and have seen the loss of their brothers, their sisters, their mothers, their parents and their boyfriends too,” said Stoneman Douglas student David Hogg.
“It’s only through working together as Americans and coming together that we will solve this issue,” he said.
Hogg is one of several Stoneman Douglas students who have emerged as national spokespersons for the what has become a massive student-led movement to push for stronger gun control laws following the multiple school shootings in recent years.
Hogg and fellow Stoneman Douglas student Alex Wind told the gathering that they were honored to be joining Marshall Academy students to draw attention to the impact that gun violence has had on them following the recent loss of two of the school’s students, who were shot to death in incidents in neighborhoods near the school.
Zion Kelly, a Marshall Academy senior whose twin brother, Zaire Kelly, was one of the two students killed last year. D.C. police said Zaire Kelly was fatally shot on a street while being robbed.
“Gun violence affects us all,” Zion Kelly told the rally. Kelly has been chosen to be a speaker representing D.C. students at Saturday’s March For Our Lives rally.
A representative of a public relations company helping the students organize the logistics of the March For Our Lives said Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez, who serves as president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, was unable to attend Thursday’s rally due to the cancellation of her flight from New York to D.C. on Wednesday because of bad weather caused by a heavy snowfall.
Bowser told the students she and the city are proud of the work the students are doing in helping to organize Saturday’s march and the leadership roles they are taking to push for gun control legislation.
“I am sorry in many ways that you have to step up in leadership on this issue,” Bowser said. “But I’m also grateful that it is you, the young people that will lead the way not only for our city but for our entire nation in making sure kids can be more safe in school or safe in your neighborhoods and more safe in our cities,” she said.
In a related development, the gun control advocacy group GIFFORDS: Courage To Fight Gun Violence, co-founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, announced that students from across the country would be joining members of her organization at a press conference on Friday morning, March 23, at 9 a.m.
The announcement says the students and several members of Congress supportive of stronger gun control legislation will speak at the press conference to “share how gun violence has impacted their lives and the lives of people close to them.”
“They will tell us why they are fighting to create safer and more peaceful communities and talk about why they’ll be joining their friends and families to march on Saturday,” the announcement says.
Among those scheduled to speak at the press conference were Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Bowser, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Demitri Hoth.