Students Take Center Stage At Gun Violence Prevention Event In Tampa
A group of activists marked Gun Violence Prevention Day over the weekend with an annual speaking and voter registration event at The Portico in Downtown Tampa.
The Wear Orange movement began in 2013 to bring awareness to gun control and gun safety initiatives after a high school student was shot and killed in Chicago. Students who helped organize gun reform protests and town halls in the months following the mass school shooting in Parkland made of up most of the speaker's list at this year's event.
Kristin Bell-Gerke is with the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, which organized the event. She says the recent surge of student activism has mainstreamed the conversation around gun violence.
"Things definitely felt different after Parkland, there definitely was a shift and I think it's all of the young people getting involved," Bell-Gerke said. "The message that we are trying to convey is this wasn't a moment after Parkland, it really is a movement."
More than 150 people attended his year's Wear Orange Weekend event.
Last week, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn declared June 1 "Gun Violence Prevention Day." The fountains of Curtis Hixon Park and the facade of the old City Hall building were lit up orange.
Alyssa Ackbar and Macy McClintock are students at Robinson High School and head March For Our Lives Tampa. They spoke to the crowd about the importance of maintaing the momentum of the student-led protests through new events and registering young people to vote.
"A big component of what we're trying to do now and continue forward is the youth has power and we have a voice, most of us just don't realize it yet," Ackbar said.
Students from the Pinellas County organization We The Students also read poems by gun violence survivors from Miami and the Pulse shooting.
March For Our Lives Tampa is currently organizing a concert by local bands in order to draw in the community to learn about the gun violence prevention movement. They hope the concert will take place sometime in September.
The event also honored the survivors of gun violence and their families, like Clearwater resident Delores Collins.
She told the crowd about her son Jermaine Crumpton, who was shot and killed in what she said was a random robbery in January.
"I cry. I get angry. Grief is my companion now," she said. "So please, if it can help one other mother, please get out and vote against gun violence."
Similar Wear Orange events were held across Tampa Bay and the U.S.