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Coverage of March Across America; Massive Crowds Rally Coast To Coast To Demand Gun Control. Aired 11a-12n ET

Aired March 24, 2018 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:13] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back.

Right now, massive crowds filling the streets from coast to coast demanding stricter gun laws. All of this -- all of this in recognition of the 17 lives lost.

Right now a look out of New York City where at any moment now there will be a moment of silence to remember the 17 victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

Our Jason Carroll is there in New York where people are also gathering. Jason -- looks like we've lost that signal with Jason.

All right. Here in the nation's capital, this really is the nucleus, the center point of this movement that is gathering today on what's being called the March for Our Lives. So many families have come from across the country to descend here right on Pennsylvania Avenue. We're hearing the stage right now where it is very celebratory. There's a lot of music.

And then the rally gets under way with a number of keynote addresses coming from something like 20 speakers, many of whom are under the age of 18. And then of course, they have a star-studded list of performers.

Our Rene Marsh is in the crowd there. Rene -- give me an idea of who you've been talking to. What are they saying and what's drawing them here?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- I can tell you it's warming up but it wasn't terribly warm the last couple of hours. It's their spring break, and all these young people are here in Washington D.C. for something they are so passionate about.

These young people, they want to see a change and they will not go and they will not be quiet until they see that change. This, essentially what you see behind me, this is what student activism and student activists really trying to get the nation's attention looks like.

We are standing around the main stage which is right behind me. We're going to see a number of speakers throughout the afternoon. There are going to be a number of celebrity performances from Common to Ariana Grande to Jennifer Hudson.

We do know that Washington D.C. police say that they are prepared for about a half a million people to get here. We got on site around 6:30 this morning and the crowd started to fill in then. And now we are really starting to see thousands and thousands of people show up here.

You know, the bottom line is, Fred, these young people holding all of their signs, they are here with one message -- they want stricter gun laws. You know, the Trump administration just on Friday, they proposed a rule which would essentially ban bump stocks, that gun accessory that would make it possible for an individual with a weapon to essentially fire automatically.

But the people in this crowd say that is not enough. They want to see more. They want to see the age raised for purchasing a gun. They want to see an all-out ban on assault weapons.

And you can bet that that is the sort of thing that we're going to be hearing throughout the afternoon here, Fred, as this march gets set to get under way in just about an hour from now.

WHITFIELD: All right. Rene Marsh here in the nation's capital -- thank you so much.

Let's head further north now to Boston where people are also gathering. CNN's senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt is there. He has been with people who have been gathering and even assembling and marching. What's happening now -- Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- we are well on our way to Boston Common where this march will end and where the rally will start. And we'll be hearing from students and teachers, but I wanted to note, many of the Parkland students have actually gone to Washington for the march but we have met one student from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where that horrific shooting took place who wanted to come up here and be with her sister.

So these are -- this is Becca and Leonor Munoz from Parkland, Florida. How are you?

BECCA MUNOZ, ACTIVIST: I'm good. I think that's something that we should remember while we're walking down Columbus Avenue is that the Roxbury is one of the most (AUDIO GAP) sites.

So Roxbury is one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Boston. And it's important to remember that because there's a 33-year difference in life expectancy between Roxbury in a one-mile radius --

MARQUARDT: So this is the point that many of the students are making today that this isn't just about school shootings. This is about gun violence in general. Are you happy with the turnout? Are you -- is this an appropriate -- a good tribute to what happened in Parkland?

[11:05:04] B. MUNOZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm so happy that people are showing up, not just for the people in Parkland but the people who die in these communities every day.

MARQUARDT: And Becca -- Leonor, how important was it for you to be with your sister on this day?

LEONOR MUNOZ, ACTIVIST: I needed to see her. I'm so happy to be with her because I can't stand anything else right now. I need to be with my family. And I'm so happy to fight with my family.

MARQUARDT: This is the first time you two have seen each other since the shooting.

L. MUNOZ: This is true. This is true. And I'm so happy to hug her and hold her hand and link arms with her today.

MARQUARDT: Did you ever think that something so big would happen, not just here in the U.S. but around the world in the wake of this -- what happened to you all?

L. MUNOZ: It's amazing to see it but it's been a long time coming.

MARQUARDT: And so what do you think will happen -- what are you hoping will happen after this march? I mean this march is huge and it will send a strong message but what do you hope will happen after this?

L. MUNOZ: I hope that politicians will finally do their jobs and protect us, that they value our lives over the money of the NRA.

MARQUARDT: All right. Thank you both. Have a good day. I'm glad you're together.

B. MUNOZ: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Take care.

And Fred -- we should note that everyone you see here is a young person. The focus here today is the young people. The organizers are making clear that anybody who is over 21, anybody who's an adult should go to the start of the road, should line up behind these students because it is about the students today -- Fred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Alex, I'm going to take it here from our studio in Washington. That was Alex Marquardt in Boston with marchers there.

But as we've been saying all morning long, there are marchers all across the country taking part in this March for Our Lives.

Let's go now to New York City. Jason Carroll is standing by there where the march is just beginning. Jason -- what can you tell us about the view from New York?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now the crowd has taken on hushed tones. If you see what's happening right now up on the stage, it's some of the family members from the Parkland shooting have taken the stage and giving some emotional statements about their feelings about why it's important to be out here today.

There's going to be a moment of silence coming up very shortly. The names of all of the victims from Parkland will be read. If you look here in the crowd you'll see some people here wearing white. Each one of those people standing here wearing white represents one of the victims from the Sandy Hook shooting.

I've also had an opportunity out here today to speak to one of the victims from the shooting in Las Vegas. She talked about the necessity to have change happen at the national level.

And just a few moments ago I spoke to Paul McCartney. He stood here and talked about the need for gun reform. As you know, he said as many people know, one of my best friends was shot not far from where we're standing right now. And he expressed the need for gun change here as well.

So again, hushed tones here; a number of people are going to be out here. After the rally wraps up here, there's going to be a march downtown and things are just getting under way here in New York city. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

So of course -- of course we are watching people gather across the country to fight for changes in gun laws. And among those here, people who are victims of violence, those who know people victimized and people trying to prevent more tragedies. They're ordinary folks, celebrities and lawmakers here.

And one of those people joining me in this march today to witness history unfold is Democratic senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar. Good to see you, Senator.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: What are your impressions? You look around, you see all of these young people who are also accompanied by many of their parents, their educators out here and lawmakers such as yourself.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, there's just this energy in the air. And for someone that has worked on this for a long time from the time I was a prosecutor with law enforcement, you couldn't get much done then.

Then I came to Washington, the moms from Sandy Hook demanded action with background checks. And we were unable to get the political force to get that done. And I think this is the tipping point.

As you look out, as the sun shining on these -- over what is expected to be well over 500,000 kids, they can ask questions that adults can't ask, like why can't I go to my school and be safe.

WHITFIELD: And Senator -- let me just ask you -- I'll take a pause for a moment because there's a moment of silence taking place right now while the March for Our Lives is under way.

Let's listen.

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsey, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang. Let us all pause for a moment of silence to honor these affected.

[11:10:01] Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

LOLA TAN (ph): Hello, everyone. My name is Lola Tan and I'm 15 years old and I'm from Manhattan.

(END OF LIVE EVENT)

WHITFIELD: A moment of silence for those 17 beautiful lives lost there in Parkland, Florida. That service taking place there during a rally in New York.

Again, across the country these rallies taking place really globally, over 800.

Back with me now, Senator Amy Klobuchar here in the nation's capitol. You mentioned the political force that wasn't there after Sandy Hook. The political force, is it there this time?

KLOBUCHAR: I think it is in my own state which is a proud hunting state where we still have 13 marches going on, including in some rural areas of our state. That's because to me I look at these and I think will this hurt my uncle dick and his deer stand to have better background checks, you know, and a ban on assault weapons.

And I just think you're seeing a sea change with people. And part of this is what these students from Minnesota told me this morning is these 17 people you just saw honored, they can't be here today. They are speaking for them, they're advocating for them, and they're also going to vote for them.

WHITFIELD: Do you feel that part of one of the obstacles in trying to push for more gun laws, stricter gun laws, that there's an interpretation that it means removing guns?

I talked to, you know, a family yesterday and they said we are all for the right to bear arms but we're also for the right to feel safe. We want to have our lives protected. How do you legislate change with that point of view in mind?

KLOBUCHAR: I think you do say, look, we respect the second amendment. In fact, when you read Justice Scalia's opinion from the Supreme Court about how that amendment applied to individuals, he actually wrote in there that you can have safety rules and regulations.

And no one has seized on that. States can do it. The federal government can do it. So you have a basis of freedom, a constitutional basis to say, yeah, you have the freedom to bear arms and to have guns, but we also have the freedom to protect ourselves with safety rules. And what we're talking about here is common sense legislation that two A-rated NRA legislators proposed, Senators Manchin and Toomey, that would have simply closed the loopholes on background checks on gun shows, background checks on online sales. And we're seeing more and more of those.

And I just think our laws have to be as sophisticated as those that are trying to get around them. And that's a lot about what this is.

WHITFIELD: What are your impressions from the Trump administration yesterday to make steps toward banning bump stocks?

KLOBUCHAR: I think that's a good thing. I was at the meeting with the President, sat right across from him. But he said he wanted to do that and they're working on that. We were able to do something in this last budget bill to strengthen the background checks. But he also said he wanted to see those universal background checks.

He said it to me. He looked around the room, he said it to America. He said it to all these kids that are out here today. And so that's what we're waiting on, that he strongly gets behind the universal background checks.

WHITFIELD: These kids are here today. They feel empowered. What about tomorrow and the next day, what do you see?

KLOBUCHAR: That's a good question. And when I met with the Parkland kids and the Minnesota kids, you know, they all say we know this doesn't end today. And we've had people calling our office about how they can register to vote so they can make sure when they turn 18 they can vote in this next election.

I mean, they are mobilized. They understand that while they want to speak out and march, -- what really matters is them exercising their rights at the ballot box.

WHITFIELD: Senator Amy Klobuchar --

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: -- thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Good to be on. Thanks -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll have much more straight ahead from the nation's capital and really across the country as thousands gather for what is known today as the March for Our Lives.

We'll be right back.

[11:14:37] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

At this hour, the March for Our Lives gathering, taking place across the country. You see all the shots there -- Houston, Washington, near the nation's capital, Miami, Fort Worth. It's bringing out tens of thousands of people who are galvanized, who feel empowered one month after that tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 killed in Parkland, Florida.

All coming out today, committed to try to change gun laws in America, making schools safer, making public spaces safer, making their neighborhoods safer.

Let's go to where it all began one month ago -- Parkland, Florida where many are gathering there.

Our Kaylee Hartung -- so sorry Kaylee -- is gathering there with a number of people. What's happening -- Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- we're in the middle of today's program. This crowd of thousands who have gathered here in Pine Trails Park are experiencing something that can't be experienced by any other march across the country today.

[11:19:59] There is a unique energy here, but beneath that energy, the grief that so many in this community feel. You know, this march, a call to action but also a challenging day for so many as this march will leave Pine Trails Park in about an hour and walk past Stoneman Douglas High School.

Among the powerful speakers we've heard to this point today, just a moment ago Samantha Mayer, a student at Stoneman Douglas who detailed the moment she was shot in the knee on February 14th, the fear and the uncertainty that she experienced in that moment.

And this contract was handed out by Adam Bush, the student at Stoneman Douglas who is asking parents to sign this contract to vote for what he called ethical legislators who will prioritize children's safety over guns. Every parent I've talked to in this large crowd to this point has said, yes, they will sign that pledge.

Fred -- this program will continue; more speakers from the Stoneman Douglas community. This musical performance of "we are the World" though at this moment creating a special environment in which I can hear those around me singing in, joining in to share their grief but also their hope for what they're saying shouldn't be an awareness movement but a change movement that will move far beyond Parkland, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung in Parkland -- thank you so much. Hearts are hurting across the country and that's what these gatherings are all about. People are trying to channel these emotions in which to bring and promote some change to promote safety.

Our Diane Gallagher is in the midst of it all here in the nation's capital with students from Parkland, Florida and students and families who have come from across the nation -- Diane.

DIANE GALLAGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And you know, Fred -- I actually right now with me don't have students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I have some of the students that they are inviting to come and join this movement to make it nationwide on stage with them today.

I have Matthew Soto and I have Christopher Underwood. Now, both of them lost siblings to gun violence. Matthew -- talk to me about why it was important for you to come here and speak today.

MATTHEW SOTO: It was important to me to come here because my sister doesn't have a voice anymore because she was slaughtered in her classroom. A first grade teacher should never have to think about a gunman coming into her class and killing her.

GALLAGHER: And your sister died in that Sandy Hook massacre. There was a lot of movement right after that and then nothing happened. What makes this different?

SOTO: It makes it different because now the next generation is getting involved and they're using their voice and they're going to show Congress that we have power. We're going to go to the polls. We are going to vote and we are going to make change.

GALLAGHER: And Christopher -- you lost your brother to gun violence. You were so young. Talk to me about how that's affected you and why you want to talk to others about this today?

CHRISTOPHER UNDERWOOD: This is affecting me because I lost somebody that I really loved. Like, he was my best friend. And nothing has been the same without him.

So like, my life has changed, and I started advocating against gun violence. And like I feel like I should be here today because I'm watching for my brother and the Parkland school shooting and for kids' safety and more gun control.

GALLAGHER: And when you get up there and you talk, there are a lot of people, there are a lot of adults out there, there are a lot of kids out there who say guns aren't the problem. What do you say to that?

UNDERWOOD: I agree with them because guns don't kill people. People kill people. So you have to understand that the people that have the guns in their hands, they're the ones that's killing people.

GALLAGHER: Do you think -- what should be done to prevent those people from getting those guns then?

UNDERWOOD: Stricter gun laws and, like, I think it's like certain states, they didn't give a gun to anybody. Certain states in this country they give a gun to anybody without even asking like how old are you or whatever your age. Like a 19-year-old I think he was, he should not be able to get a gun.

GALLAGHER: Thank you so much -- Christopher, Matthew. We're again, sorry for both your loss but we look forward to seeing you a little bit later today on that stage.

Fred -- we're going to send it back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Diane Gallagher -- thank you so much. Our hearts are heavy. At the same time people are very much committed to promoting some change here in the nation's capital and beyond.

When we come back I'll be talking to the former education secretary and a young lady from Chicago who will talk about her personal experiences.

We'll be right back.

[11:24:34] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Well, welcome back to the nation's capital for the March for Our Lives where people here are also thinking about, still praying for the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida. But this is really a movement across the country.

You're looking at a live gathering taking place from the nation's capital to Fort Worth, Texas, Parkland, Florida, Minneapolis and in Chicago and in Los Angeles. And people are coming together to push for safety in the streets, in the schools, in their neighborhoods across the country.

Who knows this better than former education secretary during the Obama administration than Arne Duncan? And also with him joining me is Ariana Williams, a high school student from Chicago -- both of you here energized by this incredible movement.

[11:29:54] At the same time, you have been committed to reducing gun violence in the streets of Chicago and in schools there for a very long time after your post with -- as education secretary.

[11:30:02]

What are your impressions here?

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: This is a really moving, emotional day. Unfortunately, our kids in Chicago, particularly on the south and west sides, have been living in a level of violence for years that's unacceptable. To see the country finally waking up and saying we have to do something better.

Our young leaders like Arieyanna who are going to lead the country where we need to go. It's emotional, moving. There's a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, but I'm more hopeful on this issue now than I've been in a long time. It's not because of what we're doing as adults but because of what our young leaders are doing.

WHITFIELD: And why are you so hopeful and is a lot of that hope coming from the fact that you had kids from Chicago who met with kids in Parkland, Parkland students came to visit Chicago and talk with you in some of your kids.

DUNCAN: I think they see how much they have in common. They see the common fight to keep kids safe. Arieyanna talked about what it's like to talk to them.

WHITFIELD: Arieyanna, your family has been struck by gun violence. You lost your father, two uncles. So, this really hits close to home. What was that dialogue like between you and Parkland students?

ARIEYANNA WILLIAMS, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT FROM CHICAGO: It was really comfortable to say the least. When we went there, we were so -- the students from Chicago were so amazed at how their environment was because they do live in a gated community and we've never seen anything like that.

It was a whole new experience. When we walked in, Emma and her family and other students, the youth leaders from march for our lives, they were so amazingly able to just greet us like we were family, like they knew us. That really made us be able to sit there and talk about our experiences.

Normally, we don't want to tell people about who we've lost and how we lost them because we're still dealing with the hurt ourselves. We were able to just feel everything out and it was just incredible. We even shed some tears because we figured out that even though we're from two different worlds, we're still able to connect on different levels.

WHITFIELD: You attend a college prep in southwest side of Chicago.

DUNCAN: On the west side, yes.

WHITFIELD: I'm sorry, it's so hard to hear out here. While you say you come from different worlds, you really can relate, how does this gathering perhaps make you more hopeful that safer days in school, in your neighborhood, in Chicago and beyond are on the horizon?

WILLIAMS: Because we realize now that gun violence isn't no longer a state problem because Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws, but you still see violence every day. Now it's on a national level. We need everybody from around the world to take part in it. This is what you see right now.

This is the only way that we're going to be able to make a positive change because if we just stick to Chicago, I feel as though it will never get done. It's not Chicago itself. It's like the borderline of states that are bringing the guns in Chicago. I feel as though if we all work together we can create change.

WHITFIELD: Arne Duncan, are you more hopeful now than ever?

DUNCAN: I've been pessimistic on this issue. I think it's a country who cares more about guns than kids, but I think it's starting to change. They said our shared pain makes us family. It's a deep statement. I hate that this pain has brought them together, but I'm convinced with them coming together they're going to change the world.

WHITFIELD: Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Arieyanna Williams, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right. Here in the nation's capital you can hear the noise level is increasing. People are gathering here in huge numbers. The rally about to get under way in just moments from now. At the top of the hour, noon hour, Dianne Gallagher is in the midst of crowd there with one of the students who lived through the school shooting in Parkland, Florida -- Dianne.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. David Hogg is here with me and Maya Middleton. Maya, you go to school in Chicago. You're going to come on stage today and talk. Talk to us and our viewers about what you plan to say. How do you plan to address this crowd of people?

MAYA MIDDLETON, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: I think I don't want my voice to just be heard. I want everyone's voices to be heard. I'm sick of government keeping us silent while we're trying to scream and cry for help and they're like, no, we can't talk about that right now, it's not news. I'm sick of that and I really think we should shed light on those who are too oppressed to say anything at all and move on to the next thing that's happening right now.

GALLAGHER: What do you think should be done? What change do you think should be made?

MIDDLETON: I should see more like marches and I want people to share their stories. Their voices count too. It's not just me. It's a lot of people who do things like me. I wanted to see people like get out of their comfort zone and yell and scream and say look at me, we're hurt too. It's not just about you.

[11:35:02] GALLAGHER: And David, that's kind of what you and your classmates did. You guys decided you wanted people to get together for this cause. Talk to our viewers, talk to me about what this cause is. Specifically, what do you guys want to see changed from this?

DAVID HOGG, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: We want to see the awakening of democracy. We had a huge nor'easter in D.C. and there was a lot of snow on the ground. Through the persistence and the heat of the sun, that's changed. That's the same way that we're going to change our democracy, through love and compassion and persistence.

After this march, this is -- I want people to understand this is not the end. This is just the beginning. We're going to have town hall over the next two weeks with Congressman from our local districts. What people should do is start organizing those town halls and invite their elected officials. If they don't come, invite their opponent.

GALLAGHER: What does progress mean to you? What specifically do you want to see different from all of this in those town halls, from these marches? What kind of change? What would that look like to you?

HOGG: I want to see the NRA get out of funding so many corrupt politicians where they put their lobbyists and their special interests first. We want to make sure that we're still able to protect the Second Amendment, but in the same way where you can't yell fire in a crowded theatre, you shouldn't get a weapon of mass destruction if you're a mentally unstable individual, somebody with criminal background or somebody with history of domestic violence. It's common sense gun reform and that's all we're talking about here along with mental health care reform in different aspects of it. GALLAGHER: And Maya, just really quick before we send it back to Fred, you want people who feel oppressed, who haven't had their voices heard. David and his classmates have been up front about the fact that because they come from an affluent community, a school that gave them this education and this platform to speak on, they wanted to open that up. Are you trying to do the same to make sure that some of these other movements that the media and the country hasn't paid attention to in the same way are going to be uplifted?

MIDDLETON: I mean, we're tired of sitting around and let government make our own decisions. So yes, I think that when I do come to perform, I'm going to let everyone know that I'm tired of this, I'm not going to sit around and wait for something to happen, I'm going to make it happen.

GALLAGHER: All right. Fred, again, we've seen very determined young people who have basically said their age does not matter. In fact, in their opinion that is a benefit because they don't feel like they're tainted by society at this point. So, we will see both Maya and David, I thank you both, on stage a little later today once the march gets kicked off fully.

WHITFIELD: Yes, determined is an understatement. This is an amazing force here of young people across the country galvanized to really promote change. We'll have much more from the nation's capital and beyond on this day, the March For Our Lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:28]

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back to the nation's capital. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. You're looking at a view from across the country because this is the day of the March For Our Lives and there are gatherings taking place everywhere from Washington, Chicago, Boston and Fort Worth, Texas.

People have been gathering all morning long, but now we're officially about just under 20 minutes away from the official start of the gathering here in the nation's capital where there will be speakers, at least 20 speakers all under the age of 18.

Then there will be performance, star-studded performances from Ariana Grande who of course was touched by violence at a performance in England, a deadly, violent attack taking place there. Miley Cyrus taking to the stage. Jennifer Hudson with her personal encounters with her family with gun violence.

And there are thousands of families who have gathered here in the nation's capital coming from all over, from Parkland, Florida where just a month ago 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School through gun violence.

I want to go to CNN's Ed Lavandera who is in the middle of it all as so many gathers. So, Ed, who are you meeting? What has been the primary motivation for so many that you have encountered there? ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, we are with a unique group of people, people who didn't know each other before a horrific event brought them together, and these horrific events simply known for many people across the country by one word, the Virginia Tech, Aurora, Orlando Pulse, Tucson, those types of events.

It's a group of about 15 survivors, relatives of people who died in those incidents. They came together from all over the country, decided to be here together to support the students of Parkland.

One of the key voices in this group is Pat Mesh. You survived the Tucson shooting where Gabby Giffords was wounded. You witnessed that up close. To be here today, you've been so involved in this gun violence issue since that day. What's it like for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very encouraging to see these kids. Our legislators should be very afraid. They're ready to vote. If they don't change their votes on gun violence prevention issues, then we're going to change their titles from senator to former senator and congresswoman to former congresswoman. They need to pay attention to their constituents. It just encourages and enriches and enables us to see all these people here today.

LAVANDERA: Thank you, Pat. As I mentioned, Fredricka, families from aurora, Virginia Tech, the Orlando Pulse shooting, Las Vegas. It's really something to see. They say they came here to support these students, but also to walk away inspired with them.

In many cases they've been fighting this fight and they say change has been slow in coming. They say coming here and watching these young people has inspired them to go back and reinvigorate their fight back home in their own communities -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. Today is a culmination of so many fights across the globe. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

So out of that horrible tragedy in Florida, an incredible movement was born called "Never Again." Co-founder, 16-year-old Alfonso Calderone believes the energy that we're experiencing here, and the message of this march is destined to intensify.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: We first saw your pain, we saw your passion when after that shooting in parkland you took on lawmakers, legislators in Tallahassee, Florida.

ALFONSO CALDERON, CO-FOUNDER, "NEVER AGAIN" MOVEMENT: People are losing their lives, and it is still not being taken seriously. I was in a closet locked for four hours with people who I would consider almost family crying and weeping on me, begging for their lives.

WHITFIELD: It seems as though you've gotten louder, you've become more determined after that. How has your focus changed?

CALDERON: I feel like our focus has expanded. I don't feel like it's necessarily changed. The mission and the goal is still the same. We want comprehensive and common-sense gun laws in this country. That's still the goal. But now it's broadened our scope and now we realize it's not just about school shootings. It's about public safety. There's communities, you know, who are underprivileged, and they experience it nearly every single day.

WHITFIELD: In Florida, the legislator and the governor agreed on at least one change that many of you, young people are celebrating, the raising of the age limit for certain firearms. Is there encouragement or discouragement you're feeling?

CALDERON: One thing you're going to learn about me is that I never get discouraged. Encouragement is the only thing I possessed. After the Florida legislator, everybody got sad and upset, but I was smiling because it encouraged me to take it now to the national level. People thought the fight was over, but then we got laws passed in Florida. Now we just going to do exactly same thing on the Hill.

Your voices not only will be heard, must be listened to.

WHITFIELD: As a co-founder of "Never Again," there have been some comparisons made between you and your fellow student body and iconic civil rights icons like Congressman John Lewis who was asked about you in a recent interview. He said never give in, never give up.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Give it all you got. Be hopeful, be optimistic.

CALDERON: He is an inspiration. It's honestly fantastic and one thing that did move me to tears is when he told me that he will be marching with us.

WHITFIELD: So, advice from an icon and now some of your colleagues are on the cover of "Time" magazine. What does that mean for this movement? Does it take it to an entirely different level? Does it get the attention that you were seeking?

CALDERON: What I honestly feel that the "Time" magazine cover did for us, not only did it solidify a place for us in history because of "Time's" iconic stature, but also it caused that maybe some people who didn't take it seriously because we are kids, we are children, we are 16, 17, the oldest member of our group is actually 20 years old, but with the "Time" magazine cover does is it makes people who were doubting us realize, oh, this is serious, which is what we've been trying to express since the beginning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right. Alfonso Calderone, that is his spirit, the determination that we are seeing here in the nation's capital and beyond at rallies today. We'll have much more of our live coverage right after this.

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[11:53:39] WHITFIELD: Welcome back on this Saturday. The March For Our Lives taking place across the country from Boston to New York, Chicago and Fort Worth, Texas. We want to take you to Chicago where you'll see an aerial view of the impact of the gatherings taking place today. This is a city hard hit by gun violence.

Today, people are hoping this energy, this empowerment that is permeating the crowds across the country will help promote change and safety on the streets of Chicago. Ryan Young is joining us now. Ryan, what are people saying there about their hope this day forward?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, I heard some of the interviews you were doing with people from Chicago. You can understand this issue really affects people in this city quite differently because we talk about all the gun violence here quite often. And the fact of the matter is, more than 175 people have been shot in this city since the Parkland shooting. You think about that, more than 175 people.

So, people are really touched by this. Then you see a crowd like this, and a lot of times when we talk about issues in this city, you don't see this mixture of people. People are putting their hands together in this. You have a sign that says, "me next" or "trust me I'm a teacher." or "I'm a teacher, not a sniper." So different ideas. Why did you feel so passionate about coming out here today?

[11:55:08] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Especially being a teacher with all this that they want to give teachers guns. We don't have the things we need to teach kids, much less spending all this money on guns and training. That's not the answer.

YOUNG: Particularly in Chicago, just real quick, tell me how this effects the community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it's important that we're marching here. Chicago's been the murder capital for many years now. This march is really important. Not only for the schools but for Chicago. Our kids have lived in fear for long enough.

YOUNG: I got to go, but just the idea here, you feel the passion, because people want change and they're hoping this national conversation will help make that happen.

WHITFIELD: Ryan Young in Chicago, thank you so much. Just minutes away from the official start of this "March For Our Lives." Thanks so much for being with me this morning here this Saturday from the nation's capital. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Much more straight ahead.

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