Supporters gathered in downtown St. Petersburg Thursday to welcome survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The voter registration and gun violence awareness event at Williams Park was part of the March For Our Lives "Road to Change" bus tour.
“There needs to be change and the only way that's going to happen is if we get involved because there are so many adults around who either don't care or they've just given up because they don't feel like they can do anything anymore,” she said. “We're not going to do that. We're going to change what our generation thinks and that kind of stigma that we can't do anything and that we don't matter."
Her colleague, Kayla Dixon, is a rising senior at Countryside High School in Clearwater. She said part of the group’s mission is to "advocate for common-sense gun control while highlighting the importance of mental health resources."
“We just want people to be educated about the people they’re voting for and to stop the apathetic generation,” she said.
While people fanned themselves under the hot sun in Williams Park, various speakers addressed the crowd including Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Republican state representative Chris Latvala, Democratic state senator Daryl Rousson and Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Chris King.
Nearby, Tom Bergan with the voter registration organization HeadCount.org, said the nonpartisan group had registered close to 200,000 people since the Road To Change bus tour began. Now, he said, the message is to get people that are committed to voting to get at least ten friends to do the same.
"On August 28, when the primaries are happening, text them in the morning and say 'hey, when are you free, let's go to the polls,'" he said. "And if you can have one person engage their networks-- it’s this ripple effect where all of a sudden, everyone's voting."
13-year-old Emma Weinstein of Tarpon Springs came to the event with her mother Beth Weinstein. Emma is too young to vote but said she wants to be a politician one day.
"I really want to influence my congressman,” she said. “I want to see change within my peers and I want to make sure that the new generation is ready for everything that's going to come forward."
Her mother said she encourages her daughter's budding activism.
"I think it’s important that children understand that they are responsible for the world that they're in,” she said. “And that they're only going to get as much as they put into it.”
The Road to Change tour travels to the University of South Florida in Tampa on Saturday.