Parkland Students Bring Campaign To Town Halls As part of their campaign against gun violence, Parkland students brought their #NeverAgain movement to a South Florida community with a history of gun violence.
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Parkland Students Bring Campaign To Town Halls

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Parkland Students Bring Campaign To Town Halls

Parkland Students Bring Campaign To Town Halls

Parkland Students Bring Campaign To Town Halls

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U.S. Rep Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Junior Tyah Amoy Roberts. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen/NPR

To keep the momentum going on their #NeverAgain protest movement, student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have been pushing members of Congress to hold town hall meetings.

On Thursday, they went to Miami Gardens, a community where drive-by shootings and stray bullets have claimed many lives. When someone asked how many had lost loved ones to gun violence, at least a dozen people raised their hands.

The meeting was organized by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who applauded the work of the Parkland students and recalled words she heard in the 1960's from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., while a young student herself at Fisk University.

"First of all he had this rousing speech," Wilson said. "And then he said, 'Children, you keep on marching. Don't you get weary.'"

Wilson said she wanted to begin a discussion about how to bring the momentum to Miami Gardens and other areas plagued by gun violence daily. Miami Gardens is just 30 miles south of Parkland, but a much different community. It's less suburban and predominantly African-American, but a place where parents share the same concern: how to make sure their children come home safely.

One of those speaking and listening was Jared Moskowitz, a state representative from Parkland and a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He shared with the audience his experience the day of the shooting — the families waiting for hours to hear the news they already suspected, that their loved ones were among the victims.

"But it is not lost on me that in Miami-Dade County, 300 kids over the last 11 years ... have lost their lives to gun violence," he said. "And these are kids, innocent kids."

They were kids, Moskowitz said, such as 12-year-old Tequila Forshee, killed by stray gunfire when bullets ripped through her grandmother's living room while she was having her hair braided.

In the weeks since the Parkland shooting, student activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas met with a group of high school students from Chicago to share their experiences about dealing with gun violence. Seventeen-year-old Tyah Amoy Roberts is part of a group of African-American students at the high school now working to address gun violence in the black community. She says the common denominator in all these shootings is a firearm.

"This is not only about school shootings," Roberts says. "Shootings happen everywhere. This is not only about mass shootings because shootings happen on a day-to-day basis in communities of color."

Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior Brandon Dasent wants to build connections with the Black Lives Matter movement. He and other African-American students aren't reassured by more officers at school. In the days after the shooting, there was a tense moment when he was reprimanded in a school hallway by an officer for how he was dressed. Dasent says he turned and walked away.

"If that type of conflict happened outside of Douglas' gates," Dasent said, "I probably wouldn't be here speaking to you right now. Or I would have ended up in handcuffs. I would have been detained. That's how it works."

There was a lot of talk at the meeting about getting more people registered to vote and to turn out on Election Day. The Parkland students and many in the community are upset about a provision in a school safety bill recently passed in Florida that allows certain teachers to carry guns in the classroom. They fear it puts African-American students at risk of being targeted. So far, however, it doesn't appear the law will have a big impact. School districts in Miami-Dade, Broward and many other counties in Florida have indicated they'll opt out of the program.