Just over a week after the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead, what began as raw outrage has evolved into a full-fledged, organized movement against gun violence. The movement, known as “Never Again MSD,” is spearheaded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students themselves as they attempt to make sense of what occurred and prevent it from ever happening to anyone else.
With 25 fatal school shootings since Columbine in 1999, America is no stranger to the heartbreak that follows such incidents. However, as time passes after each, media coverage, thoughts and prayers and the chance of preventative action all fade. The students of Never Again MSD hope to prevent the normalization of school shootings and hold lawmakers accountable for some form of action.
The students of Never Again MSD hope to prevent the normalization of school shootings and hold lawmakers accountable for some form of action.
“Maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail,” MSD student Emma Gonzalez said in her speech at the Fort Lauderdale Courthouse rally last Saturday. “And in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.”
The Fort Lauderdale Courthouse rally served as a starting point for many CCHS students who wanted to become involved in the Never Again MSD movement. Though hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the courthouse, the faces of a few CCHS students were visible in the crowd. Determined to support the community and protest against gun violence, they held signs with sayings like “No more silence, end gun violence,” and “Protect us, not your guns.”
“I didn’t think it was possible to have an outdoor area shake but somehow it did and it was amazing,” senior Brittany Schectman said. “You could feel the energy and compassion.”
The same levels of energy and compassion were present when students across South Florida staged “walkouts” at noon on Wednesday, February 21. The students of Coral Springs High School left class to form a giant heart on the football field to honor the victims, while students from West Boca High School walked 12 miles to Stoneman Douglas High School to protest and pay their respects. At CCHS, students headed out to the football field and filled the stands, where they held signs, chanted and listened to fellow students deliver speeches in protest of gun violence. The walkout even made its way to other states, from Maryland to Arizona.
“[The walkout] was an empowering experience as I watched hundreds of my peers walking together to the field,” junior Aliceon Clemmensen said. “I felt for once that the majority of my peers were truly on the same page. To me this movement means that there is hope for our future because this isn’t going to be forgotten until we see change.”
As students across the U.S. left class looking for change, 100 survivors of the shooting had left South Florida altogether to speak with state officials in Tallahassee. The students met with and asked questions of lawmakers of both parties, sharing their experience with them in hopes that they would support the Never Again MSD movement. In spite of their tireless lobbying, the House declined to consider a ban on “large capacity magazines and assault-style rifles” like the ones used by the gunman.
Disappointed but not discouraged, many of the students travelled back home to attend the CNN Town Hall, held on Wednesday night at 9:00 at the BB&T Center. Students, staff and family members affected by the tragedy asked questions of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, National NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch. Florida Governor Rick Scott and President Donald Trump declined to attend.
“It was empowering being able to see the impact of the voices of those affected who spoke,” senior Bailey Kraus said of the event. “It was also very surreal to think that I was sitting in a room with many individuals who experienced the worst moment of their lives last week and are now turning that experience into action. “
Though the town hall discussion became heated at times, it is being acknowledged as the first step of a very long journey. By taking a nonpartisan approach, the students hope to gain support from people on both sides of the aisle for the common goal of preventing mass shootings.
By taking a nonpartisan approach, the students hope to gain support from people on both sides of the aisle for the common goal of preventing mass shootings.
“This isn’t about red and blue,” MSD student Cameron Kasky said at the CNN Town Hall.
The journey continues with the “March For Our Lives,” to be held in Washington, D.C. on March 24, when students from across the country will gather in the nation’s capital to demand that the government take action to ensure their safety in school. A Broward County “March for Our Lives” will be held at the Parkland Pine Trails Park for those who cannot make the trip to Washington. In the meantime, it is clear that the Never Again MSD movement is not going anywhere, and will continue to fight for an end to mass shootings in memory of the 17 lives lost.
Photos by Sabrine Brismeur