Following the devastating shooting that took place at their school on Valentine’s Day, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are raising their voices to call for gun control. This week, 100 pupils from the Parkland, Florida school will head to Tallahassee to march on the state Capitol. On Tuesday, they will leave for the state’s capital after attending the funeral of classmate Carmen Schentrup, according to the Miami Herald. The protest will take place Wednesday, and it will mark the group’s first action as part of the newly launched #NeverAgain movement. With three weeks left in Florida’s legislative body’s annual session, the students will put pressure on elected officials to amend mental health and gun laws in the state.
After Nikolas Cruz fired an AR-15 at his former school and killed 17 and injured more, the students have demanded gun reform on social media and in televised interviews. They’ve quickly become the face of the gun control movement, with 18-year-old Emma González emerging as one of the most recognizable figures. Just days after the shooting, Emma delivered a powerful speech (watch here), leading The Washington Post to call her “the defining voice after Fla. mass shooting.” An op-ed on The Guardian stated, “After Florida, I had lost hope. Then I saw Emma González.” And Forbes succinctly described her as “a young orator [rising] above the Florida shooting tragedy.”
As the gun control debate rages on, it’s clear many eyes will be on Emma. Two days after the shooting, she learned a school board member wanted to call her. Initially, she worried she had done something wrong, but she soon learned that officials wanted her to speak at an anti-gun rally on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. Struggling to write her speech, she went to sleep for the night and woke up the next day at 6:30 a.m. to type down her thoughts and feelings. She edited the speech during the 45-minute drive to the rally and continued to make last-minute changes up until she stood in front of the lectern. Soon after, she was trending. Her name was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter.
“I was getting incredible energy from the crowd,” she told People. “I wanted people to feel what I was feeling.”
Before the shooting, Emma kept track of how many days she had left in high school. “I had 110 more days,” she said, adding that the shooting changed everything. “We want to go back to school. We need to go back in session to show that this school will not be defined by its past. This school will be defined by its future.”
Someone González had met a party was killed, and another one that she has known for “an incredibly long time” remains in the hospital, according to The New York Times. With many of the students experiencing trauma, a group of about 19 – Emma included – have united to organize. Taking over their parents’ living rooms, they spend countless hours making plans. They’ve missed curfews and have not been sleeping well so they can continue to spread their message. They don’t want other children to experience the horrors of a mass shooting, BuzzFeed reports.
Some have critiqued the young students for being unapologetically loud and not grieving in more traditional ways, but the backlash hasn’t deterred them. “Everybody needs to understand how we feel and what we went through, because if they don’t, they’re not going to be able to understand why we’re fighting for what we’re fighting for,” she told the NYT. “This is the way I have to grieve.”
After Wednesday’s protest, the students will demonstrate next month in DC with March For Our Lives, a March 24 event where they “will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today.”