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MSD Tour Faces Backlash and Support from SWFL Republicans

Rachel Iacovone
15-year-old Lauren Hogg, the younger sister of recent MSD graduate David Hogg and co-author of their book #NeverAgain, tells the 400-person crowd about how it felt Valentine’s Day, when a gunman shot down four of her friends and 13 others.";

Student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting embarked on a statewide bus tour from Parkland last week.

The Road to Change tour plans to visit all of the state's 27 Congressional districts, making its first Southwest Florida stops Monday.

Following a press conference in Naples, the group headed to Fort Myers for a public town hall on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. The discussion included a panel of 12 high school and college students who are part of the March for Our Lives movement, including three current and past Marjory Stoneman Douglas students.

15-year-old Lauren Hogg is the younger sister of recent MSD graduate David Hogg and co-author of their book, #NeverAgain. She was asked by a member of the 400-person crowd to describe how it felt, on Valentine’s Day, when a gunman shot down four of her friends and 13 others.

“The easiest way to imagine what it was like that day is to close your eyes. Close your eyes for a minute," Hogg said. "Think of somebody who you love. Think of somebody you hold dear, you love and are so close with, and imagine all the great memories you had together. And, imagine, in a matter of six minutes, every single conversation and memory was ripped from you.”

A repeat-heckler cut in to Hogg’s description to point out the rate of gun violence in Chicago, before being escorted out by officers from the university police department.

Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU
A man, who was later escorted from the premises for heckling the student panelists, records a confrontation with a woman holding a sign that reads "NRA complicit!" before the start of the Road to Change town hall at Florida Gulf Coast University.

FGCU student Bobby Garon says he was disappointed in the man’s outbursts throughout the night.

Garon was at the town hall with other members of the FGCU College Republicans, after the group met with the March for Our Lives panelists earlier in the afternoon.

“We all are in agreeance that the youth needs to drive the next era of politics," Garon said. "Regardless of what your political persuasion is – left or right – the youth getting involved is tremendous, and we all agree on that. At the end of the day, we think we can make some serious progress going forward in regards to curb the epidemic of mass shootings.”

The Road to Change tour made its way to Charlotte County Tuesday, beginning with a voter registration event followed by another town hall in Punta Gorda.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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