Early childhood education student is organizing the local March For Our Lives event this Saturday
Advocates for gun reform are planning a march on Saturday, June 11 in downtown Fort Myers. The event is in partnership with hundreds of similar demonstrations across the country and internationally through the nonprofit March For Our Lives.
The Robb Elementary School mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas prompted the desire for organizers to start planning for another universal way to advocate for stricter gun laws to prevent gun violence.
“I'm hoping that I can advocate for educators, past present and future, and really encourage some gun reform to take place so that teachers can focus on teaching, because that's what we're here for,” said organizer for the Fort Myers event Madison Franz.
Franz is a senior studying Early Childhood Education at Florida Gulf Coast University. When she first heard the news about the Uvalde shooting and noticed activists in the area weren’t doing anything, she, as a future educator, took that responsibility upon herself.
“It's wild to me that at 20 years old, I cannot go out and have a drink legally, but I could purchase a firearm,” Franz said.
March For Our Lives is a student-led nonprofit started by student survivors of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The group advocates “promoting civic engagement, education, and direct action by youth to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence,” according to the organization’s website.
“I've never done anything like this before,” Franz said. More than 100 people have indicated they plan to attend and to go and 200 others have indicated interested through a Facebook event post about the march. Franz is inviting speakers who have personal experience with gun violence to share their stories at the demonstration.
According to the MFOL website, more than 360 marches are being organized around the U.S. on Saturday morning, including events in Washington D.C., Alaska and Hawaii. Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy are hosting marches, too.
“We are taking significant security measures because we know that it is a hot topic and we know that unfortunately it is a polarizing issue,” Franz said. “So, we will have our security in place, we will have marshals, we will have medics, and we are really pushing that this is a civil and a peaceful event. This is not something that is intended to be violent. We will not allow it to get violent.”
Franz is promoting the march to be peaceful and educational. The Southwest Florida March for Our Lives event begins at 11 a.m. on the steps of the old Lee County Courthouse at 2120 Main St, Fort Myers. Demonstrators will march through downtown Fort Myers and end back at the courthouse.
“I would like to see anyone from any walk of life, from any perspective show up to this event with the hopes that they will learn something, that they will hopefully, either change their perspective or strengthen their perspective, but most importantly, that they'll act and they'll realize that the tragedies that have happened elsewhere can easily happen here and we want to protect that community,” Franz said.
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