On a day many celebrate with love, the families of 17 students mourned the loss of their loved ones when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The news stunned and outraged many across the nation, particularly students, who demanded stricter gun laws from local political candidates and lawmakers through vigils, protests and a nationwide demonstration March for Our Lives.
The national march originated in Washington, D.C., and students from several other cities organized sibling events including former Plant High School students Brooke Shapiro and Macie Lavender, who led a successful event in Tampa that drew nearly 15,000 people.
Within two days of marching, those same students immediately took action and sat with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson along with five members of the Hillsborough County School Board and superintendent Jeff Eakins to ask them questions, determine their next moves and present their campaign against gun violence as a nonpartisan issue.
The movement’s work continues Saturday (Sept. 15) as March for Our Lives Tampa holds a free concert, "Bands and Ballots," to raise gun violence awareness from 5-9 p.m. at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Macy McClintock, a Robinson High senior and one of the organizers of the event, says at March of Our Lives they continue to see members in the community perceive gun violence as a partisan issue.
"Gun violence is not a matter of political preference; anyone can be affected by gun violence," she said.
"We want to remind the community that no matter what side of the ballot you stand on, you can support gun reform measures that will make our community safer. We believe the best way to bring the community together is through music."
The event will emphasize the need to vote. The nonprofit Headcount will attend to register voters and political candidates from both sides will attend to converse with attendees as well.
Natalie Hernandez, a contestant from Season 3 of NBC’s The Voice and Tomorrow’s News, will perform along with local bands from members of Tampa high schools.
In addition, surviving students and alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas including Brendan Duff, Sofie Whitney, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez will speak. The event also will include gun violence survivors such as Khary Penebaker from Everytown for Gun Safety, who lost his mother to suicide and Myara Alvear, who lost her daughter Amanda in the Orlando Pulse nightclub.
Hogg continues to spark conversation in the news and online for his strong anti-NRA views, activism against gun control, and his recent claim on Twitter about the AR-15 class of guns: "You’re not defending yourself... you’re hunting." His tweet went viral in response to a video of an exchange between California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein and Brett Kavanaugh.
Local members from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, who previously supported March for Our Lives earlier this year, also will help with coordination.
"This event is all about the young people; they planned and organized everything," said Erin Wiley, co-leader for Tampa’s Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "We’re all about getting out the vote and electing Gun Sense candidates to help create a safer Florida."
For more information contact Macy McClintock at [email protected]