A pep rally intended to inspire Parkland students ahead of the upcoming national march against gun violence took on a new sense of urgency on Tuesday following a shooting at a Maryland high school.
The afternoon rally at the Parkland Equestrian Center had been planned as a motivational send-off for students headed to Washington, D.C., for the March 24 March For Our Lives, as well as for those staying behind to demonstrate in Parkland.
But the attack at Great Mills High School in Maryland, where earlier in the day a student armed with a handgun had injured two of his classmates, created a chilling backdrop for the event.
“I am sure you all have heard today, and it disturbs me to my core, that there was yet another school shooting,” said Demitri Hoth, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the event organizers, addressing roughly 60 people gathered at the park. “Let us send our thoughts and prayers to them, but not only that. Let us do what our politicians did not do when our school was transformed into a battleground. Let us fight for justice. Let us extend our hand to every student, teacher, parent to come together to demand that our government do something. Because enough is enough.”
“Enough is enough,” the crowd repeated, breaking into a chant.
As Marjory Stoneman Douglas students prepared for Saturday’s march, five weeks after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, there were other troubling developments adding to the anxiety.
▪ Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas students had been arrested Tuesday for taking knives to school, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and a third student had been charged with a misdemeanor after detectives say he made a threat on social media.
▪ The previous day, Zachary Cruz, the brother of accused shooter Nikolas Cruz, had been arrested for trespassing on school grounds.
▪ On Tuesday night, the Broward Sheriff’s Office announced that it had suspended an officer for sleeping in his car while he was on duty at Stoneman Douglas High the previous evening.
▪ And Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Broward Sheriff Scott Israel asking “that immediate action be taken to require an armed law enforcement officer to secure every point of entry at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while students are on campus.” Scott’s letter said he had heard from parents who were concerned that the school was safe, and he offered to provide Florida Highway Patrol troopers to augment security on the campus until a more permanent solution was found.
Despite the unsettling events, some of which were only publicly announced after the rally, the students headed to Washington expressed optimism about the trip.
Katrina White, a sophomore, is traveling to the nation’s capital on Thursday with a group of roughly 200 Parkland students. The group plans to meet with lawmakers on Friday, and although this will be White’s first experience talking to members of Congress, the 15-year-old said she’s more excited than nervous.
“I’m eager to get the Never Again movement message across to lawmakers,” she said, adding that she planned to advocate for a ban on assault weapons.
Samuel Safaite, also a sophomore, said he hoped the number of people marching would send a strong message. “I feel like it will change the way things are going in this country,” he said.
Although much of the media attention since the shooting has focused on a small group of teens behind the #NeverAgain movement, including Emma González, Cameron Kasky and David Hogg, senior Angelina Lazo said she hoped the rally would make other students feel like their voices were also being heard.
“Everyone’s voice matters, whether you’re marching here or going to the grocery store wearing a Douglas shirt,” said Lazo, who helped organize the event.
While most Stoneman Douglas students are either preparing to travel to Washington later in the week or plan to stay in Parkland for the local march, the group of teens organizing the Washington march has already started their trip.
On Monday, they held a live Q&A session on Twitter at the company’s New York headquarters using the hashtag #AskMSDStudents. More than 700,000 people watched the event. Then, on Tuesday evening, the students spoke at Harvard University.
The #NeverAgain organizers were quick to condemn the Maryland school shooting. “Less than a WEEK ago Great Mills High School students walked out with us to protest gun violence ... now they’re experiencing it for themselves. The state of our country is disgusting - I’m so sorry, Great Mills,” Stoneman Douglas student and #NeverAgain activist Jaclyn Corin tweeted on Tuesday morning.
The Maryland shooting was the 17th at a U.S. school this year, according to a CNN tracker, which includes accidental gun discharges at schools and shootings on college campuses.