Countless factors could explain why their activism on gun control has so quickly evolved into a national movement. And one could be Parkland’s demographics. People in Parkland tend to be well-off. The median household income in the city is just over $128,000, according to census data, compared with less than $53,000 for the (massive) surrounding Broward County. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, or MSD, reflects this relative wealth: Fewer than 23 percent of its students during the 2015-16 school year received free or reduced-price lunch, compared with close to 64 percent of students across Broward County Public Schools.
That comparable affluence could be key to understanding why Never Again’s youth leaders seem to be building so much political clout in a debate that until now seemed impossibly stuck. (And, realistically, may still be.) It could also be key to understanding why similar efforts led by disadvantaged youth in recent years have gained little, if any, meaningful traction.
“It’s mind-blowing that while [the Parkland students] are still in the first days of dealing with trauma, anger, grief, they’re putting it toward really careful and thoughtful political and civic action—it’s just amazing,” said Meira Levinson, a Harvard Graduate School of Education professor whose research focuses on civic education and youth empowerment. “At the same time, it’s also important to recognize that other young people have done this [activism] also within days—they’re experiencing the same grief—and haven’t gotten the attention that these [Parkland] students have.”
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MSD students’ campaign started percolating on social media almost immediately after the massacre, in which 17 of their classmates and educators were murdered and many others injured. Persistent and plucky from the get-go, the teens urged President Trump to justify and rectify his inaction on gun control and lambasted the conservative pundit Tomi Lahren for insisting that any post-shooting “anti-gun” commentary was inappropriate.
It quickly became clear that these survivors were poised to spearhead a political movement whose message is so loud, and so raw, it’s continued to dominate mainstream news coverage and radio shows and even late-night comedy a week after the shooting—an unusual phenomenon in today’s real-time news environment. They’ve written haunting op-eds and delivered viral speeches; they’ve instigated rallies and prompted nationwide walkouts by students and teachers.
Now they’re planning—from their parents’ living rooms—a massive demonstration to take place in Washington, D.C., next month. The “March for Our Lives” event already has a sophisticated website with a mission statement and merch for sale—and, like the historic Women’s March last January, it is inspiring satellite protests not just across the U.S. but also across the globe. Triple-digit donations from the likes of George and Amal Clooney and Oprah are helping to make all of this possible. Donations to the march’s GoFundMe campaign have been on the rise since the effort was launched several days ago, and organizers have in turn continued to increase the funding goal. As of Friday evening, donations totaled roughly $2.3 million.