An enthusiastic crowd of 7,500 participated in The March for Life in Miami Beach, one of more than 800 anti-assault rife marches around the world on March 24. Chants of Vote Them Out rang out as speaker after speaker vowed make the safety of students as a top priority.
The Miami Beach March for our Lives was a student run event spearheaded by Hannah Gelber, who is also chair of the Miami Beach Youth Advisory Commission. She worked with alumni from Margery Stoneman Douglas High school who now attend the University of Miami.
“I had an amazing time. I think people really enjoyed it,” Gelber says. “We had a lot of youth activists. It was a political march, we wanted to make sure they knew how important this issue is.”
Gelber says she chose to talk about her age and the fact that she wants our lawmakers to listen to the young.
“I expressed how I believed though we are 17, we will be voting in the next election,” Gelber says. “I listed all of the qualities I would vote against. Any candidates that took money from the NRA and any candidate that didn’t want background checks. It appeared that they agreed with me based on their cheers.”
Hannah Gelber then introduced her father, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. He admits to being misty-eyed hearing his daughter speak.
Students from other high schools were bused in to participate.
“This is not just a rally but a movement,’ she says. “We need to keep moving forward.”
She credits the Miami Beach leadership for making the event possible.
“The city wanted to make sure that we were the ones making the decisions and calling the shots,” she says. “We did need a lot of help with logistics. They trusted us and helped us. I was sitting at a table with the chief of police, the city manager, with the head of tourism.”
The request to hold the march came just a week after the shooting. The youth advisory commission’s request was blessed by the Miami Beach City Commission at next meeting.
“People in my community are very supportive,” Gelber says. “Especially Miami Beach. We didn’t have any negative protestors at the rally. Everyone was united and together. Even planning it, Miami Beach did everything possible to help us out.”
Also helping was the League of Women Voters who worked on voter registrations. The head of the LWV told the crowd that registering to vote is great, but actually going to vote is even better.
The March for Life started at Miami Beach High with speakers that included mayors from other cities, Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, gubernatorial candidate and former Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine.
At the end of the march, the speaker’s list included local dignitaries, Gelber, rapper Flo Rida, Emily Estefan, Bob Marley’s grandson sang Stand Up for Your Rights, Mayor Dan Gelber, and anti-gun movement activists. The parents of a Pulse victim urged the crowded to get involved in Everytown for Gun Safety and another one demanded that Congress allow research into fun violence.
By the way, Hannah Gelber also organized the March 14 Student Walkout.
“I developed it with the other kids at my school. We were in touch with the administration,” she says. “It was a supervised walk out. We got the entire school to walk out including the teachers. It was a week before the march and it got the kids motivated to come the following week.”
Gelber says being in school after the Parkland shooting was terrifying.
“It was hard to get back to normal,” she says. “(In class) we were planning escape routes.”