Gun reform advocates from across Miami-Dade County will gather on Miami Beach for next weekend’s student-created and led March for Our Lives. Up to 10,000 people are expected for the rally which will start at Miami Beach Senior High School, continuing to Collins Park for a special program, then back to Beach High. Nearly 600 events are scheduled to take place across the US during a national day of rallies initiated by America’s youth following the tragedy in Parkland.
Miami Beach Director of Tourism, Culture and Economic Development Eva Silverstein has been working with a planning committee that includes eight University of Miami students – seven of whom are graduates of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and another who grew up across the street from MSD and was friends with two of the students killed in last month’s school shooting. Three Beach High students, including Hannah Gelber, daughter of Mayor Dan Gelber, are also members of the planning group.
At this month’s Commission meeting, Commissioners approved the City’s hosting and sponsoring of the event. Before they did, they heard from Raven Bedford Clark, a freshman at the University of Miami, whose friends were killed. “It’s the most tragic thing in the world when a child loses their life, but it’s even more tragic when they lose their life to needless violence," she said. "It’s hard for a town to come back from all the grief. It’s hard when there’s no flowers in a five mile radius” when the town ran out because so many people wanted to leave them as a tribute. “It’s something that may seem small to people but in Parkland it wasn’t a small thing.”
Describing the movement that the students started she said, “We don’t want to just be known as the city where the shooting happened. We want to be known as the city where we started a movement and we made a change.”
She is helping to organize the local March for Our Lives event because she doesn’t want to see another town go through what Parkland went through. “This is absolutely preventable … I’m glad we can all come together and say we want to prevent this from happening. I don’t want to see another town that’s ran out of flowers again.”
“The response from young people has been incredibly strong,” Silverstein said, “The fact that it is being organized, visioned and curated on social media by young people, we expect [their presence] to be very strong."
At the same time, the City is making a push to make the rally a family event, she said. “It’s positive activism. We’ve had a lot of interest from families as well as PTAs.”
Silverstein said the experience working with the young organizers has been “really terrific”. It has been both “a learning/mentoring session as well as mutual respect, planning as equals”. The students have strong ideas and opinions, she said. “They have a vision for what they want to do. My role is to support and guide [based on her experience with large events]. They get to experience empowering each other and themselves with the idea that their voices can and should be heard.”
March for Our Lives will include Vote for Our Lives, an effort to register students to vote and encourage them to turn out on Election Day. At the Miami Beach rally, the Miami-Dade County League of Women Voters will register voters on-site. Sixteen year olds can be pre-registered according to Silverstein. Just bring an ID. Voter registration is mobile with no paperwork. Free March for Our Lives/Vote for Our Lives t-shirts will be given out to the first 3,000 who register.
Hannah Gelber, a student at Beach High and Chairman of the Youth Advisory Commission for Miami Beach, is hoping for a strong student voter registration drive. “We want to make sure their voices are heard in the next mid-term election,” she told Commissioners at their meeting earlier this month.
Logistics: The City is encouraging people to arrive early, preferably between 8 and 9. The march will kick off promptly at 10 am. The program in Collins Park will begin at 10:45 and end at noon followed by a march back to Beach High.
Silverstein said the coordination is very similar to planning for last year’s National Conference of Mayor’s meeting though this one had to come together very quickly. Representatives from the Police, Fire, Parking, and Transportation Departments are all involved along with volunteers from the offices of the City Manager, Mayor, Special Events group, and Code Compliance.
At peak Spring Break, Silverstein said, “The City’s at full capacity and City staffing resources are stretched so we are trying to help organize, buses, carpools, etc.”
Parking will be available at the City Hall garage, Pennsylvania Avenue garage, and at the 17th Street garage with a free shuttle operating between City Hall and Beach High. Limited parking will be available for cars and buses at Beach High.
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