Students Who Lived Through Florida Shooting Turn Rage Into Activism After the latest mass shooting, teenagers in Florida are mobilizing with plans for rallies against school and gun violence in Washington, D.C., and around the country.

Students Who Lived Through Florida Shooting Turn Rage Into Activism

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


We're going to start the program today in South Florida, where something remarkable is happening. In Parkland, the scene of that school shooting last week that left 17 people dead, the kids are organizing. High school students who survived the attack are planning a massive rally in Washington, D.C., next month to demand stricter gun laws and an end to school violence. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann has this report.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: At a picnic table in a city park a short drive from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the kids have set up a kind of media center.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Does he have cameras?


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yeah. But (unintelligible)...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: He's a camera...

: ...Have somebody's...

: He's a camera guy. Hey, I don't know if he has one right...

MANN: It's Sunday afternoon, and they're fielding calls from news outlets all over the country, also from community organizers who want to help by donating or volunteering. Dylan Redshaw is a senior, 17 years old. She survived Wednesday's attack and says the message now is pretty simple.

DYLAN REDSHAW: I just know we must prioritize lives over guns.

MANN: Sofie Whitney, also a senior and a survivor, is 18. She says the country needs action in the form of new laws, new policies.

SOFIE WHITNEY: We can't dwell on the sadness. Of course, we - we are all heartbroken, but we can't let the 17 people die for nothing. We have to make something good about their death.

MANN: This kind of activism feels really different compared with past mass shootings. The kids here say, in part, it's because the victims are older. They're old enough to have a voice. Chris Grady, also a senior and a survivor, is 18.

CHRIS GRADY: After what happened in New Town, those kids were too young to speak out against what happened and to really even maybe even understand what happened. And we want to be the voices for not only them but for any student and teacher who have been affected by acts of cowardice like this.

MANN: Another big change is social media. Brendan Duff is a college student who went to school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He's come home to help manage this new movement's digital campaign. The response has been overwhelming.

BRENDAN DUFF: Hundreds of messages per minute. Like, just direct messages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram just because people all over the country want to help, and social media is honestly the best way to reach not only everyone in this country, I think, but definitely this generation.

MANN: This is all happening really fast. Emma Gonzalez, another survivor of Wednesday's attack, went viral nationwide over the weekend after speaking at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale.


EMMA GONZALEZ: In this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead...


GONZALEZ: ...So it's time to start doing something.

MANN: Gonzalez is here today in the park helping plan next steps. Her mom, Elizabeth Wiegard, drops by, and I ask her what it's like watching her daughter swept up in this moment.

ELIZABETH WIEGARD: It's terrifying, especially after last week. All you want to do is hold them tight. Like, I don't really want her to go to the bathroom on her own. And she's just, like, camped out all night with these amazing kids, organizing a movement. And it's kind of like letting them drive for the first time, which, up until about a week ago, was my biggest fear. You just got to open your arms and let them fly.

MANN: These kids know they're flying in the face of massive political opposition, headwinds that include the NRA's staunch opposition to gun control and the Republican Party's distrust of limiting gun rights. Sofie Whitney says she has a question for those people.

WHITNEY: Why does your right to own an AR-15 more important than a kid's right to feel safe? It's not. It's common sense.

MANN: Another student, Dylan Redshaw, leans in, her voice shaking with anger.

REDSHAW: We're not even asking for, you know, that completely all guns need to go. That's not even what we're asking for. We need - we just need age restrictions and high-quality accessible mental health institutions and higher checks on when people are trying to purchase these weapons, on gun ownership.

MANN: These kids moved quickly the last couple of days to tap into a grassroots national network first organized the head of the women's march last year. With that help, they think the rally in Washington, D.C., March 24 will be big. There will also be smaller marches and rallies in cities all over the country. Again, Brendan Duff.

DUFF: We're going to have, in every major city, somewhere that people all across the country can go to. They want to feel engaged, and they want to work they're doing something to help. And this is it.

MANN: The guy who started all this with a series of viral tweets with the theme, never again, and, enough, is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Cameron Kasky. He's a survivor too. And on this afternoon, just before we talk, he sprawls on the grass, blowing off steam with pushups. I ask what he says to people who think the gun debate is just too dead-ended, too polarized for change to happen. Kasky shakes his head.

CAMERON KASKY: The crescendo has hit its point. It's enough, and we're going to - it's over. I haven't a shred of doubt that this is going to be our change.

MANN: Another student tells me this campaign isn't just focused on rallies and social media. A lot of high school kids like her will turn 18 before the November election, and they also plan to vote. Our kids are dying and no one is doing anything about it, she says. Everyone's going to vote. Brian Mann, NPR News, Parkland, Fla.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.