As morning became afternoon, a solemn street corner became a loud and peaceful protest.
More than 2,000 students, many from high schools in northwest Broward County, left their classes Wednesday and walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on foot. They shouted and screamed — chants of “Never Again,” “We Are Douglas,” “No More Silence” — and held signs with messages aimed at ending gun violence.
On at least three occasions, many joined hands and stood silently to honor the 17 killed in the shooting at Douglas seven days ago.
Behind them was a memorial: crosses and Stars of David with each victim’s name, covered in flowers, cards, candles and stuffed animals, and handwritten signs fixed to the chain-link fence surrounding the school. Hundreds wore maroon and white Douglas High gear. Hundreds more wore the colors of neighboring schools, no longer seen as rivals.
“We are together, and we will end the violence,” Adam Alhanti, 17, a Douglas junior, shouted as he paced in the middle of a clearing of students. “Thank you so much for being here. Love one another. Show each other that everybody means something, and that we will change the world.”
They came from Douglas, Coral Springs, Taravella, Margate, Monarch, Coconut Creek, Coral Glades, Coral Springs Charter and smaller private schools, rallying for more than two hours. At least two dozen Broward Police officers and the fire departments of several neighboring cities oversaw the event. Workers from the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs and other volunteers set out pallets of water bottles and tables of snacks around the area. Parents watched from the side.
“I have no words to describe how proud I am,” said Aly Sheehy, an 18-year-old senior at Douglas. “Our community is coming together. We’re making the change. I can’t wait to see what actually happens. We’re going to make a difference.”
Signs carried simple messages: Never Again. Protect Kids Not Guns. Fear Has No Place In School.
Others were sharper, and pointed at politicians: “Is the NRA your sugar daddy?” read one. Another was directed at Sen. Marco Rubio’s reported donations from the gun lobby. “How many children have to die for your $3 million,” it asked.
One borrowed from President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan: Make School Safe Again.
Sheehy echoed the words of 17-year-old Douglas student Cameron Kasky, who spoke Tuesday to fellow students departing on buses for Tallahassee.
“We don’t want to infringe on your Second Amendment rights,” Sheehy said. “We just want to make it harder to get these guns, these assault weapons that have no reason to be in the hands of a 19-year-old kid.”
As the crowds began to arrive, Joao Brandao, 18, from Margate High, led a few dozen students in chants demanding “gun control now.”
“We need to do something now so that no other school has to deal with this,” he said. “It’s got to happen now so that kids can be safe when they go to school, so they don’t have to be in fear when they go to a movie theater or church.”
In the late morning, the scene was somber. Mourners trickled in to pay their respects, some leaving flowers, many visibly grieving.
FULL COVERAGE: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
One of them, Douglas senior Jenna Korsten, said she comes to the school daily to pray at the memorial site. She feels change coming, but doesn’t expect it soon.
“I don’t think it can just happen like, ‘Boom,’ ” she said. “I think it takes time. But I really do think we can do it. I have faith in us.”