A wave of signs rose at the March for Our Lives rally in Tropical Park in Kendall, where Around 1,200 people stood together to protest against gun violence and the need for better gun control laws.
Janet Hernandez, a sophomore at Coral Reef Senior High, organized the event and brought together a number of Florida politicians, students and everyday citizens to join her in a sibling rally to the March for Our Lives in Washington. Hernandez told the crowd she was proud to be with so many people who have a clear vision.
“You all have taken the time out of your lives to stand with each other and try to make a statement to get the government to listen,” she said. “Many will say I’m too young to make an impact, but I am the future and we students are the future. And we count.”
Many senior citizens in attendance applauded the youth and their devotion to making the March for Our Lives movement. Stephanie Repp, a retired accountant, described the fear that the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High had on her. She said she was proud to attend the rally with her granddaughter, Stacy Meus, which made her feel better.
“I have four grandchildren. Every day at 8:20 a.m. my heart pounds because I’m horrified for them,” Repp said. “I march to feel like I’m contributing, and I make my posters to release my anger. I do this for my family.”
Repp recently had knee replacement surgery but attended the Tropical Park rally despite the discomfort.
“My family says they’re going to shoot me, and I say so be it,” she said.
Florida state representatives Nicholas Duran, Kionne McGhee and Robert Asencio gathered to give speeches. They called upon attendees to use the momentum from the March for Our Lives movement to turn out in the upcoming midterm elections. They also spoke about the recent Florida law that raised the legal age to own an assault rifle to 21.
“I was on the Florida House floor weeks ago. It was I who said that we wanted a debate about the AR-15,” said McGhee. “I said ‘Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a motion to bring up the bill to the committee to ban assault rifles right here, right now.'”
At the rally, McGhee then began repeatedly shouting, “Vote them out.” The crowd proceeded to follow his chant.
“Our children have told us that we have failed them at an alarming rate,” said McGhee. “And it’s on us to move out of the way of our children so they can show us that they will not fail us because they have no fear.”
After the representatives finished, many attendees were invited to speak on stage.
Claire Evagrace Seymour, a 9-year-old third grader, voiced what the movement meant to her.
“The fact that I have to stand up here and tell people, ‘No more gun violence,’ shouldn’t be a thing,” said Seymour. “This should’ve been gone many years ago, so I call bologna!”
Counter-protestors made their way into the middle of the crowd, holding signs claiming the movement displayed socialism and shifting the blame toward mental health. Trump supporters stood on the sidewalk of Bird Road and Southwest 79th Avenue; they argued against making stricter gun laws and refused to blame the school deaths on the guns.
Protestors in the middle of the crowd were escorted out by Miami-Dade Police after the rally’s supporters yelled, “Get them out! Get them out!”
Other counter-protestors left as the crowd began marching down Bird Road at the conclusion of speeches. They argued with those in favor of gun control. The arguments were impassioned, and a counter-protestor’s Trump flag was knocked down.
Counter-protestors refused to be interviewed.
The rally turned into a march that moved along Bird Road and Southwest 87 Ave.
Hernandez was proud of the rally. She said that it was effective in its message.
“We must work together against gun violence and this must be a reckoning,” she said. “Progress is being made, but it is time to march for our lives and to make sure that this happens never again!”