At 10 a.m. Monday, the students of March for Our Lives gathered at Pine Trails Park in Parkland to announce the latest phase of their gun-control movement: a national tour to register young voters. Focusing on cities where the debate over gun control is particularly charged, the 60-day campaign will include 50-plus stops in more than 20 states.
"We were aiming for areas where they've faced a lot of gun violence or places where... we weren't loved," says Emma González, the recent Stoneman Douglas High graduate who drew public attention for her now-famous "We call BS" speech in Tallahassee. "We want to communicate with people. We want to address that problem and have a conversation with them."
The students, who are calling their summer-long tour the "Road to Change," will also conduct a separate trip around Florida, stopping in all 27 congressional districts in their home state. They will kick off their campaign June 15 at the Summer of Peace march and rally in Chicago, alongside celebrity sponsors Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson.
"We're just going to be there, marching with them and amplifying their voices," says March for Our Lives organizer Ryan Deitsch. "We're not trying to steal the spotlight from anyone; we're just trying to go there and give them a chance to speak. From there, we're going to go across the country to places like Iowa, South Carolina, Texas, and California."
The premise of the campaign, which will involve a few dozen students, is to get young people involved in politics and ready to vote in time for the November midterm elections. But a national registration drive might face some logistical hurdles — namely, that registration protocols differ from state to state and sometimes county to county. To ease the process, March for Our Lives: Road to Change partnered with Mi Familia Vota, a national nonprofit that specializes in political engagement in Hispanic communities. The group doesn't endorse parties but conducts regular polls about issues important to local populations of Latino voters and then recommends local candidates who represent those interests.
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Significantly, Mi Familia Vota sends canvassers out into communities across the nation almost every day, according to organizer Shazia Gonzalez.
"As part of the Parkland movement, we're going to provide canvassers and people who know voter registration in-depth for every county," Gonzalez says. "It's a little complicated for a small grassroots movement to navigate every single county, every single district. Since we're already established in multiple states, we already have people who know what they're talking about, we're just going to provide the manual labor to help ease the process of collecting voters' registrations."
The students will talk to other young people about the movement's platform. The Stoneman Douglas organizers have laid out ten reforms they would like to see implemented across the nation, including universal background checks, bans on high-capacity magazines, and increased funding for intervention programs. Although the tour will have an educational edge, Emma González says the real goal is to talk to kids and hear their stories of gun violence.
"I''m not going to lecture anyone for an hour," she says. "They don't need that. A lot of these people have experienced gun violence, so... if you want to tell me your story, I'm all ears. If not, we'll just talk about whatever. I met with some kids the other day, and halfway through, we got sidetracked and started talking about the Back Yardigans. Those are the types of connections we want to be making. We're just friends with all these people. They should see that."