Parkland Survivors meet Local Anti-Violence Advocates and March Through Forest Houses

Parkland Survivors meet Local Anti-Violence Advocates and March Through Forest Houses
by David Greene

A handful of Parkland, Florida student-survivors spent a day meeting with local elected officials and joined Bronx anti-violence demonstrators as they marched through the NYCHA’s Forest Houses complex– the event was part of the Parkland High School survivors 25 state, 80 city tour of the “March for Our Lives, Road to Change,” national tour that kicked off in Chicago in June.

The youngest members of Bronx anti-violence organization Save Our Street’s hold up signs as surviving students of Parkland, Florida visit the Bronx.–Photo by David Greene

The dozen or so teens were greeted by local officials Assemblyman Michael Blake, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Rebecca Fisher, Executive director of New Yorker’s Against Gun Violence outside of the Beatstro Restaurant on Alexander Avenue on Friday, August 10.

The students began their crusade to end gun violence after their school, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, suffered an “active shooter” incident, where the gunman killed 17 students and teachers and wounded 17 others back on February 14.

Assemblyman Michael Blake of the 79th Assembly District and organizer of the Bronx visit, stated, “This is a wonderful day for all of us and for everything that’s been happening for our Parkland champions. We want them to know, we have your back and we support you.” Blake added, “We know that we have had our challenges and struggles over the years, but we’ve made great progress here in the Bronx.”

Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake addresses gun activists from Parkland, Florida and Bronx teens from Save Our Streets.–Photo by David Greene

Parkland survivor David Hogg, 18, a founding member of the March for our Lives movement, told a handful of reporters, ” We started this with the understanding that all communities are affected differently by gun violence.”

Hogg continued, “All of us are here today to work together to end the suffering in all communities, we have an understanding that violence does not discriminate. It is not a white, black, Latino, Asian or Native American issue, violence is a human issue and it is a human disease, that can and will be treated with love and compassion and we will defeat it.”

“Today we’re here in the Bronx, “Hogg continued, “with the understanding that its not Parkland, and we know that. We know this place is affected differently and all places are affected differently by gun violence.”

Hogg added, “We’re all affected by gun violence, but we all can listen and learn from our shared experiences in suffering… and work together to fix that.”

Deputy Borough President Marika Scott McFadden, greeted the students by telling them, “I just wanted to say welcome to the students who are here today. They are here and we are welcoming them because we know that anything that happens traditionally from the youth, its the movement of young people that historically has pulled the meat on out of issues.”

McFadded added, “We feel that the Bronx is an example of change and that the city can look too, that the country can look too, but we also have stories here in the Bronx that were still working on issues.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who organized a silent peace march through the street’s of Castle Hill on July 25, said, “I see the very bad part of what happens with gun violence. Each and every day my officers work to make sure that those responsible for bringing violence to our community and dealt with fairly in the criminal justice system.”

Clark added, “Its devastating sometimes looking in the faces of families affected by gun violence directly or indirectly. But you know I prayed for you all after Parkland and I thank God for you now, because you are the people that give me hope as a district attorney, to do the work I have to do.”

Students enjoyed a lunch of chicken, potatoes and vegetables inside Beatstro, where they met with Assemblyman Michael Benadetto, Rebecca Fisher, the executive director of New Yorker’s Against Gun Violence and other gun control activists.

The group would then go to the East 163 Street headquarters of Save Our Street’s an anti-violence organization that is surrounded by the Eagle, Forest and McKinley Houses.

During his visit to Save Our Street’s, Ramon Contreras, 19, a Soundview native who was invited to join the Road to Change bus tour, explained the groups current plan, stating, “We’re going to key districts around the country where its important to come out and turn out the vote, because they have the opportunities to flip the states where we can get policies, if we can get candidates who support the policies that will actually save the lives of children in this country.”

Hogg then added, “Its not about electing Democrats or Republicans, its about flipping districts from morally corrupt individuals to morally just individuals that represents their constituents best, not the interests of special interest (groups) like the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America.”

Hogg concluded, “On November 6, we need people to show up at the polls to create the America that they want America to be, and that’s the plain truth.”

The young adults from Parkland and members of Save Our Street’s then marched to nearby Forest Houses, hoping to register new voters and chanting slogans like, “S.O.S., save our street’s,” “Guns down, lives up,” and “Stop shooting, start living.”

At the July 25 anti-violence rally Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr., was asked why the different Bronx anti-violence groups couldn’t get together for one large demonstration that would draw attention to the issue, Diaz replied, “Yeah, but everybody wants to be the boss.”

Morrisania resident Emmanuel Gil, 15, watched the group of a few dozen marches pass as they headed west on East 163 Street as he headed to play basketball at the nearby Dunbar Playground.

Once he learned what the march was for, Gil remarked, “I think its a good thing because more people are getting hurt out here and our community needs to be safe.”

During their New York City visit members also had a private meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio and participated in a town hall at the New York Society for Ethical Culture and ended their nationwide tour on Sunday, August 12 in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 students and teachers were murdered in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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