Rosemary Westwood: #NeverAgain has harnessed rage for the cause — and they're not done
As media attention holds steady on the shooting for longer than past tragedies, Republicans and President Donald Trump have been forced to react.
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It is “a time of too much division and anger in America,” U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday morning.
A group of teenagers bent on building a revolution would disagree. America, and politicians in particular, they might argue, aren’t angry enough. Not as angry as they are after 15 of their schoolmates and two teachers were killed by a 19-year-old with an AR-15 rifle last week in Parkland, Florida.
Anger born of this horrific experience has liberated these students. Now they have a national platform to say exactly what they think, and demand exactly what they want, and they’re seizing it, calling their movement Never Again.
“Never again should students have to protest for their lives,” Sarah Chadwick, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, demanded in a press conference on Wednesday at the Florida State Capitol, where most lawmakers declined to meet with students.
“Never again should I feel guilty to be alive,” she said, and intoned the names of those killed. “That is why we’ve organized this revolution: For them.”
“The first few days were for grieving, but now we’re angry, we’re pissed, we’re ready for action. We want change — we’re going to get change,” fellow student Spencer Blum promised CNN.
In a clip that quickly spread across the internet last week, Emma Gonzalez yelled into a microphone at a gun control rally while wiping away tears: “They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS!”
“Dear Congress, How many of the thoughts and prayers I have received do I need to check in for some damn action?” an emotional Sheryl Acquaroli screeched into the microphone Wednesday.
The young women have harnessed their rage for the cause, ignoring entirely any expectation that they soften their emotions or lower their voices. Unconcerned that women’s anger is not often viewed kindly by the media, they have screamed on national television, and this time, America appears to be captivated by the raw emotion.
“I don’t think we should ever be silenced because we are just children,” Alfonso Caldron told reporters. “I feel that that is powerful, and it’s one of the only reasons this movement is where it is right now.”
The teens held a local school walkout this week. Many were part of the group that travelled to Florida’s capital on Wednesday for a rally and to confront lawmakers with their demands. They’ve appeared in countless media interviews and at a town hall debate which included the National Rifle Association, American’s powerful gun lobby group and staunch ally of the GOP.
The upshot has been a dramatic shift in public opinion, away from the Republican Party.
Fully 66 per cent of Americans now favour stricter gun laws in a poll released Tuesday, “the highest level of support ever measured” by the Quinnipiac University National Poll, up from just 47 per cent two years ago. A wide majority — 51 per cent to 31 per cent — say Democrats handle gun violence better than Republicans. And more voters say they want the Democrats to take the House and Senate than in any time in the last five months.
As media attention holds steady on the shooting for longer than either the Orlando or even Sandy Hook shootings, Republicans and President Donald Trump have been forced to react.
Trump has vowed support for increased age restrictions, stricter background checks and arming more teachers. He’s promised meetings with lawmakers and state governors.
“It’s been many years of all talk, no action. We’ll get it done!” Trump tweeted on Thursday, and it’s one promise he’d do well to keep.
Students are planning a nationwide “March for Our Lives” protest next month, a sign they plan to continue to force the issue into the headlines as the fall midterm elections heat up.
“We’re too young to vote, but soon we will be able to vote,” student Florence Yared warned lawmakers who ignore their demands, “and we will vote you out!”
That is, if other Americans don’t beat the students to it.