Students Organize 'March For Our Lives' Throughout Tampa Bay
Madison Vogel had never organized a protest before.
But following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, the Osceola High School senior got together with 35 other Pinellas County students and created a companion event to a national march against gun violence.
And on Saturday, their work drew thousands to Poynter Park in St. Petersburg for a March for Our Lives rally.
"I really found myself asking all of our legislators to do something, but when it really came down to it I took a step back and really asked myself 'What am I doing?' " Vogel said.
For two hours, she and about a dozen other local high students spoke to a sea of protestors dressed in orange. The color honored the 17 victims of the school shooting in South Florida.
Vogel told several thousand participants that politicians are dragging their feet on gun control. The Osceola High School junior warned that she will be old enough to vote come November.
"We will vote you out of office like our lives depend on it, because they do," she said.
Lee Bryant is a social studies teacher in St. Pete and a veteran. He says his military service has showed him the power of assault weapons and that they shouldn’t be available to civilians. “They’re not for defense, they’re designed to kill people.” #MarchForOurLives @wusf pic.twitter.com/kJpi0PGlia— Roberto Roldan (@ByRobertoR) March 24, 2018
Devin Meyers, a junior at Osceola High, told the crowd politicians aren't doing enough to end gun violence and plans for increased school safety don't recognize how it will affect people of color.
"Police Occupation of school campuses, especially in communities of color can harvest a climate of constant fear," he said.
Organizers for the #MarchForOurLives in St. Pete estimate more than 3,0000 people attended. St. Pete PD officers directing traffic have varying estimates between 1-2,000. Here’s a timelapse of the March as it passed:@wusf #PinellasCountyMarchforourLives pic.twitter.com/Ce10nbn3Do— Roberto Roldan (@ByRobertoR) March 24, 2018
Other student-led marches took place Saturday in Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakeland. More than 13,000 gathered at Curtis Hixon Park before marching more than a mile through downtown.
There, protestors chanted "Grades up, guns down," and "No more silence. End gun violence."
They are chanting “enough is enough!” and “grades up, guns down!” There are still people in the garden, even though we’ve almost made it to the intersection of W. Kennedy and Boulevard. #MarchForOurLives Tampa @marchtampa @wusf pic.twitter.com/MY5UYABESo— Hafsa Quraishi (@hafsaquraishi_) March 24, 2018
Brooke Shapiro, a senior at Plant High School, helped organize the Tampa march. She said the event was about showing the solidarity between students, teachers and the public around the need for stricter gun regulations.
"We wanted to show that we in Tampa Bay are standing together as students, teachers, parents, adults, officials, and I think we definitely got that message across," Shapiro said. "We were one today."
Some senators from the University of South Florida Student Government penned an open letter to lawmakers with the help of high school students around Tampa.
The letter was read by a few of them, including American Youth Academy sophomore Mariam Elsayed.
"With every school shooting, we get one response from you - we get thoughts and prayers," said Elsayed, addressing U.S. representatives. "That is not enough anymore."
The marches in Tampa Bay were just a few of the more than 800 organized by students throughout the world.