A group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who started a gun-control movement after the nation's deadliest high school shooting received an award previously bestowed upon Chinese democracy dissidents and a Sudanese doctor who treated victims of torture in Darfur.
The March For Our Lives activists were honored by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in Washington on Tuesday, alongside groups promoting changes to immigration law, fighting for indigenous rights and promoting African-American political involvement.
"I’ve had the privilege of working with the students in Florida and we know what incredible people they are and the difference they are making," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "These students were the first ones to stand up and challenge the NRA."
Nelson talked with Parkland students David Hogg and Cameron Kasky after the RFK organization doled out the human rights award to Color of Change, International Indigenous Youth Council, United We Dream and March For Our Lives. Nelson said Kasky and Hogg told him they plan to campaign in all of Florida's 27 congressional districts ahead of the 2018 election.
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Nelson also talked with Hogg about an attempted "swatting" incident on Tuesday, in which a SWAT team was called to Hogg's house by someone making a prank call in an attempt to harass his family. Hogg and his family were in Washington receiving the award and were not home at the time.
"These students are getting all kinds of threats and it's going beyond threats, they're getting actual incidents," Nelson said. "And it's a shame that we can't have a discourse in America over the issue of gun safety that people have to take it out in a way of attempted intimidation of these students."
Hogg said the swatting incident was an attempt to distract him from his political work.
The Parkland students received the award from Ethel Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's widow, and the March For Our Lives organizers will receive help from the human rights organization for their work, which includes a voter registration tour around the country and a political action committee that will pay for negative advertising for lawmakers who do not support the group's gun-control push. The March For Our Lives activists will also receive a portion of $30,000 prize money that will be split between the four winning groups.
The March For Our Lives was created by a few dozen Parkland students after a mass shooting at their school on Valentine's Day. Initially, the group's efforts were focused on a march in Washington, but they have expanded to include political efforts in affiliated March For Our Lives chapters around the country. About two dozen young Parkland activists attended the ceremony Tuesday.
“It’s an inspiration to see how vocal, engaged, and committed today’s youth are in their fight against injustice, and our 2018 Human Rights Award honorees reflect that passion for social justice,” said Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy in a statement. "The young leaders from the March for Our Lives, United We Dream, Color of Change, and The International Indigenous Youth Council carry on my father’s legacy of advocating a more just and peaceful world.”
In addition to the work on voter registration, the March For Our Lives activists are ready to help Nelson's reelection effort against Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Nelson walked up to activist Emma Gonzalez and after a brief hug Gonzalez beamed while offering her support to the longtime incumbent as he faces what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate campaign of all time.
"I get your emails all the time," she said with a smile.