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CNN NEWSROOM

March for Our Lives; Brexit Campaign Claims; Italy's First Black Senator. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 25, 2018 - 04:00   ET

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


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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time for the nation to realize gun violence is more than just a Chicago problem or a Parkland problem but it's an American problem.

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): These students say this is not a moment. They say this is a movement. Hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets, demanding action on gun control in the United States.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): But as to whether or not the movement can bring about actual change and new legislation, we'll break it down with our guests this hour.

HOWELL (voice-over): Plus has the legitimacy of the Brexit referendum been damaged?

A whistleblower tells British Channel 4 that the Brexit campaign violated campaign finance rules.

ALLEN (voice-over): These stories are all ahead here. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We're coming to you live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you, 4:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast.

Teenagers led the way with teachers, with parents, commanding the world's attention with one message. They were saying enough is enough. The protesters rallied in what's called the March for Our Lives, demanding tougher gun laws in the United States.

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ALLEN (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of people marched in more than 800 cities across the United States. But the main focus was in Washington, where demonstrators rallied behind the Florida high school students who survived a mass shooting last month on Valentine's Day, when a gunman, a former student, opened fire at their school, killing 17 students and teachers.

These students may be young but they say they're fighting, as we just mentioned, for a movement.

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ALEX WIND, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: People believe that the youths have no voice. When Joan of Arc fought back English forces, she was 17 years old.

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WIND: When Mozart wrote his first symphony, he was 8 years old.

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WIND: To those who people that tell us that teenagers can't do anything, I say that we were the only people that could have made this movement possible.

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ALLEN: Good points that young man made. CNN's Joe Johns now highlights some of the other powerful moments from the marches across the United States.

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JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: From sea to shining sea, activists pouring into the streets: from, Parkland, Florida...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This stops now.

JOHNS: To our nation's capital. Students standing up to make their voices heard.

TREVOR BASS (PH), PARTICIPANT: My name is Trevor Bass (ph).

EDNA YVEZ CHAVEZ, PARTICIPANT: My name is Edna Yvez Chavez.

ION KELLY, PARTICIPANT: My name is Ion Kelly and just like all of you, I have had enough.

JOHNS: Powerful voices of those who have lost. Gripping a world in awe of the power of our youth.

NAOMI WADLER, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT FROM VIRGINIA: People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It's not true.

JOHNS: As student-led demonstrations demand changes to the nation's gun law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I too am a victim, a survivor and a victor of gun violence. We are done hiding. We're done being afraid. We are done being full of fear.

JOHNS: Each one drawing thousands including celebrities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of my best friends was killed in gun violence right around here. So, it's important to me.

JOHNS: The D.C. event brought famous performers like Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Common.

One person not in attendance, President Trump, who instead opted to leave town one day ahead of the march. The White House issuing a statement applauding the demonstrators, highlighting a new Department of Justice proposal banning bump stocks as part of the president's commitment to keeping children safe.

For many, that proposal is not enough; not even close.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they give us that inch, that bump stock ban, we will take a mile. We are not here for bread crumbs, we are here for real change.

JOHNS: But other lawmakers did show up. Each with a similar refrain, that the best way forward is to keep pushing forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They will make their voices heard and they will make them heard every single day and they will make them heard in every single election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to stay with it. One day is not enough because the politicians are watching the NRA which is going to be there tomorrow and the day after and the day after.

JOHNS: With student after student offering a different message to their elected officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and will not be influenced by money and demand the same from our elected officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stand for us or beware, the voters are coming.

JOHNS: Young men and women, demanding change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: United America.

JOHNS: Obviously, the question is whether all of this energy will translate into substantive change any time soon.

Organizers on their weekend visit to Washington were encouraged in private meetings with thought leaders like former Vice President Joe Biden to vote, to run the grassroots movement and when it's time, to run for office, to keep the pressure on.

Organizers responded by registering people to vote at the march in all 50 states -- Joe Johns, CNN, the White House.

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ALLEN: Students are certainly outspoken and articulate.

HOWELL: Making their voice and message clear.

ALLEN: Just amazing how they've crystallized it.

Some of the most powerful scenes of protest happened in Parkland, Florida, where the March for Our Lives was born from the students who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

HOWELL: Those students are hoping their school will now become the launching point for change, as our Kaylee Hartung reports.

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KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Pine Trails Park, this is a park many Douglas students grew up playing soccer in or maybe baseball in the fields next door. Then this park became a memorial site following February 14th, where people would come to pay their respects to the 17 victims.

This park took on a new significance in their lives. It became the rallying point for the change they were demanding. There was an energy and a passion in the air here but also very raw grief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shot in the knee in my fourth period classroom. My classmates and I lay helplessly on the floor, hearing and feeling rapid gunfire. As I am aware that the horrific tape that replays in my head will never be rewinded, I am also aware that the need for change is overdue.

HARTUNG (voice-over): The program concluded with 17 Stoneman Douglas students on stage, each stepping forward to say one of the victims' names, one of their best friends. Then with the line, "This is why I march." The crowd then left this park and marched about a mile to the high school. And as marchers approached campus, they were asked to be silent to honor the victims of February 14th.

They were also asked not to stop but to continue walking to signify the forward movement they want to see as they continue this fight and continue to honor the 17 lives lost that day -- in Parkland, Florida, Kaylee Hartung, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: And just a footnote to that, this school is about 45 minutes from Mar-a-lago, where the U.S. president is spending the weekend. He has had something to say about the march. We'll have that coming up.

HOWELL: As we mentioned, it wasn't just students at the marches. Parents were there, too, including some parents who lost their children to gun violence.

That happened to be one person, Fred Guttenberg.

ALLEN: His 14-year-old daughter, this is Jaime, was killed in the school shooting last month. He told us why it's critical that this march sparks a change, a real change.

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FRED GUTTENBERG, JAIME'S DAD: After every one of these incidents, we always have a conversation. We always talk about stuff we're going to do. It's always very comfortable for people and then it always goes away.

I don't want to talk about my daughter and make people comfortable. I don't want this to be comfortable for people and I certainly don't want it to go away. I want to be part of this movement toward gun safety.

This orange ribbon that I wear here that started at my daughter's dance studio, I want this to be the symbol of a gun safety movement. Every American should be behind what we are. We're not behind anything against the 2nd Amendment.

We're behind steps that we would consider common sense so that the safety of Americans when they walk out on public streets, into public buildings or into buildings that should be secure like a school, where they don't have to fear being shot.

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HOWELL: Fair to say there were tens of thousands around the world, people that came together marching for gun control but they were not alone on Saturday.

Gun rights activists held counter demonstrations at some march sites. They argue that gun control efforts would infringe on their constitutional rights to bear arms and to use guns to protect themselves. CNN's Van Jones asked one gun rights supporter to share her experience on why she thinks broader gun control rights would offer more safety.

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VAN JONES, CNN HOST: You grew up with guns, you had a gun permit. You got accepted to a college that was a gun free zone. You decided to leave your gun at home and then you were the victim of the sexual assault. So many people say guns are the --

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JONES: -- problem. But from your point of view, a gun in your situation might have been a solution.

From a young woman's point of view, what are we missing in this gun debate?

SAVANNAH LINDQUIST, GUN ADVOCATE: I think that there's so much that we're missing. But the biggest aspect of it is the importance of self-defense. I was lucky to get accepted to my dream school and I was able to pursue a degree in neuroscience which is something I had dreamed of for my entire life.

Sorry. But after 3.5 years at my dream school, I dropped out because of what happened. And after 3.5 years, all I had to show for my time there was a horrific experience and student loans. And I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did.

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ALLEN: The powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, seized on the march as a fund-raising opportunity. It posted a promotional video on Saturday that slammed the marchers.

HOWELL: Here's part of the message from the NBA.

"Gun hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to destroy the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones," end quote.

ALLEN: The U.S. government has taken some recent steps to address gun violence. One is a proposal by the U.S. Justice Department to ban so- called bump stocks. Mr. Trump, President Trump tweeted about it Friday as he noted a bump stock is an accessory added to a legal semiautomatic rifle to make it shoot more like an illegal rapid fire machine gun.

HOWELL: Other actions include the creation of a school safety commission. Also the spending bill the president signed into law on Friday includes language to improve background checks on some gun purchases. That bill also provides more funding for school security.

ALLEN: Let's talk more about what we have witnessed on this Saturday. Steven Erlanger is chief diplomatic correspondent for "The New York Times." He joins us now from Brussels, Belgium.

Steven, thanks for being with us.

STEVEN ERLANGER, CHIEF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Hi, Natalie.

ALLEN: Hello. It's remarkable that high school students from a school in Florida just mobilized worldwide rallies, hundreds in the U.S., on every continent except for Antarctica.

They have the passion, they have tremendous support; they also have the NRA and congressional leaders who get support from the NRA and Americans who want no encroachment on gun laws.

Do these kids have a chance?

ERLANGER: They have a chance. It's a democracy. It reminds me of the '60s, when kids -- including me -- were marching in the streets trying to bring an end to the Vietnam War. These things do have an impact. They don't always have an impact tomorrow but they do have an impact.

One of the reasons we get so involved is because we hear these tragic stories, which are truly tragic, of basically middle class people but the real damage as we know of this gun madness in America is mostly suffered by the poor and by people in cities.

These are the people who are in general victims of an awful lot of gun crime. And so I hope this pushes Congress to at least make some legitimate restrictions on the current market in semiautomatic weapons, which no American citizen should have.

I hope they will raise the age of gun ownership all across the country to at least 21. I hope they will install at least a month-long waiting period before people get gun licenses, with real background checks. These are not things that will infringe Americans' right to have a gun. This will just protect normal people from crazy people who get guns.

ALLEN: And let's stick with that point because we just heard from the NRA, "gun hating billionaires, Hollywood elites are manipulating these children."

I don't think anyone believes that these children are not doing this of their own accord. And again saying that the Second Amendment will strip our rights to defend ourselves and our loved ones. That's not what anyone is talking about.

How can the NRA continue the same old same old and still have an impact?

Because they certainly do.

ERLANGER: Well, they do, partly because, as you know, we have a very divided country and it divides along identity lines, too. It's not just economic lines or racial lines. But for some -- for a large number of Americans, it is part of being an American. It is their notion of what it is to be an American which is the right to bear arms.

Now the Constitution put that in --

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ERLANGER: -- to prevent authoritarian governments from banning citizens' militias, that's one thing. That doesn't mean every student should be carrying a gun in school.

ALLEN: What do you think that the politicians who accept money from the NRA, how do you think they're viewing what happened today?

Think they're nervous?

ERLANGER: I think they're nervous. In general, you just interviewed a grieving father, who said quite rightly, very often these things have momentum for a little while and then fade away.

We saw this with President Obama, who felt one of his greatest failures was his failure to convince the Congress to install more gun control.

But it's a fight really for politics, for President Trump's sphere, too. His instinct, of course, in the beginning was to put in serious gun control changes at least. Then the NRA has pulled him back a bit partly because of politics.

Lobbies work in America. They have money; they get voters out to vote. If everybody voted, lobbies would have less power but many people can't be bothered. And people who care passionately about issues as part of democracy do get out and vote.

That's true whether it's the gun lobby or it's, you know, pro this or pro that lobby. These are identity issues. They matter to people. And things that matter to people push them to vote. And the NRA, like many other lobbies, perfectly legally presses these buttons and Congress men and women have to listen.

This is -- politics is expensive in America.

ALLEN: Exactly. Well, we will see how the buttons are pushed come November as a result of this movement. It will be interesting to watch. Steven Erlanger, always appreciate your analysis. Thank you.

ERLANGER: Thank you.

HOWELL: Politics are expensive but these messages, certainly powerful. Emma Gonzales stood on stage for six minutes and 20 seconds. That's the length of the shooting at Parkland, Florida, the shooting that she survived.

ALLEN: And she was silent for that time, right.

HOWELL: Just to show the impact on stage. Very powerful, indeed.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a whistleblower claims the official Brexit campaign cheated by breaking campaign spending rules.

What does that mean for the referendum results?

Stick around.

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ALLEN: A former volunteer is accusing the official Brexit campaign Vote Leave of breaking campaign finance rules ahead of the referendum. The whistleblower tells Britain's Channel 4 that Vote Leave used a separate campaign group called BeLeave to deliberately spend more than the authorized campaign limit.

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SHAHMIR SANNI, FORMER BREXIT CAMPAIGNER: In effect, they used BeLeave to overspend and not just by a small amount, by two-thirds of a million pounds they overspent.

And the impact of that, the difference between people -- the difference between Leave winning over Remain was just a few percentage points, you know. And that almost a two-thirds of a million pounds makes all the difference. And it wasn't legal.

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HOWELL: The majority of that money allegedly went to the Canadian data firm called Aggregate IQ. That firm has been linked to Cambridge Analytica, accused of misusing Facebook user data to target voters.

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SANNI: They know that (INAUDIBLE) cheated, that people had been lied to and that the referendum wasn't legitimate. Now we're going on a path. We're going on a path to Brexit based on lies, based on cheating, based on what is essentially a scam.

And what does that mean for our democratic process?

The decision I agree with. Leaving the European Union I agree with. But I don't agree with losing what it means to be British in that process.

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ALLEN: If Brexit weren't complicated enough, now this news story. A lawyer with Vote Leave said it has twice been cleared on this matter by Britain's electoral commission. But the group will investigate the new allegations.

And the Canadian data firm, AIQ, denies any wrongdoing. It also says it has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica.

HOWELL: In the meantime Stephen Parkinson was the then national organizer for Vote Leave. He is also denying the allegations. Parkinson is now the political secretary for the prime minister of the U.K., Theresa May.

He told Channel 4 this, "I had no responsibility for digital campaign or donations on the Vote Leave campaign and am confident that I stayed within the law and strict spending rules at all times."

ALLEN: Last hour CNN spoke with the reporter who brought this story to light, Channel 4's political correspondent, Michael Crick. He said the allegations being leveled at the Leave Campaign really boil down to this.

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MICHAEL CRICK, CHANNEL 4 NEWS: It's a complicated system during the referendum. You had the main designated group with a maximum of 7 million but there are all sorts of other little groups that were also allowed to spend money but nothing like as much, only 700,000.

And really, the allegation is that Vote Leave channeled money to one of these groups and told one of the groups concerned how they could spend that money, told them they had to spend it with this Canadian data firm, AIQ.

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HOWELL: Let's parse through all of this. Let's bring in European political commentator, Nina Schick, live in our London bureau. Nina has extensively covered Brexit.

Great to have you with us and fair to say a lot to talk about, coming out of this Channel 4 report from the United Kingdom. But it really comes down to this, whether campaign finance rules were broken by Vote Leave --

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HOWELL: -- allegedly to spend more money than legally permitted and effectively giving them more power to influence people's votes. It's raising the very clear question here whether voters -- that Vote Leave had an unfair advantage.

NINA SCHICK, EUROPEAN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that is indeed the million dollar question and we don't know the answer to that. Now these allegations are not new. There's already been loads of rumors since Vote Leave won the referendum that they might have had an unfair advantage.

If you actually look at how they campaigned during the campaign itself it's quite clear that they were unafraid to play dirty. If you look at some of the main arguments that they made in the historic example, claiming that Turkey was joining the E.U. and the U.K. didn't have a veto on that.

So will this actually change the outcome of the referendum?

I would say that, given that these allegations have been leveled before and there hasn't been enough evidence or there hasn't been enough to actually discredit Vote Leave, I don't think you'll see the result of the referendum being overturned.

And partly that is also because Brexit has divided this country into two. You see, tremendous cognitive dissonance and I think that for those who voted Brexit, these series of allegations will be seen as the latest conspiracy theory to overturn Brexit.

HOWELL: OK. Back to the report, aside from the whistleblower, everyone implicated in this report has essentially said no laws were broken here. Nothing wrong happened here.

But in fact, if it's proven that rules were broken, what's next for the people involved?

And you say this wouldn't change the referendum.

But could it tarnish the referendum?

SCHICK: Absolutely it could tarnish the referendum and if indeed they find that rules were broken, I would imagine that those people involved, some, of course, who are in the government, who are advising the prime minister very closely, may have to step down.

I don't think it will change the result of the referendum at all. But I think going forward, no matter what the results of the investigation are, even if it's found that there was no undue spending, no rules were broken, I think that it's quite clear to at least half of the electorate that the Vote Leave campaign and the entire Brexit campaign will always be tarnished.

That's not only to do with these latest allegations but also the manner in which they campaigned. They campaigned very aggressively and at least half of the country are very, very upset about the manner in which the referendum was won. I think this is going to be a very divisive political issue for many years to come.

HOWELL: In the final days, the Vote Leave camp says that it targeted around 7 million voters just before the referendum with political ads. It's not clear exactly how those voters were chosen. But once again it does bring into question the use of our data, the issue of data on social media being weaponized against us in political campaign strategies.

SCHICK: Absolutely. This is of course something that is not only confined to the Brexit referendum campaign. We've seen it in the U.S. and of course we have also seen it within the context of foreign interference in national elections, particularly in 2016 with the Russia involvement. I know we're still investigating that.

But you're absolutely right. The main point is that personal data being used as a weapon for political campaigning.

And the question is how do governments and regulators respond to that?

And it's very, very difficult to do so because often, when you have these highly targeted campaigns, where you're pushing a certain opinion piece rather than a mistruth or a distorted fact, it's very difficult to crack down on them. And imagine that this is something that's going to be important for politics in the years to come. This has obviously been playing out not only in the U.S. and the U.K. but all over the Western world really.

HOWELL: Where these allegations go, we'll have to wait and see, of course. Nina Schick, thank you for your time and perspective, live for us in our London bureau.

ALLEN: Nina just pointed out that Brexit has divided the U.K. It's guns that have divided the U.S. London took part in worldwide rallies and we'll talk with the students that organized it, coming up live -- next.

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ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and all around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL (voice-over): And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

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ALLEN: It's amazing how this one march blossomed all over the world. People everywhere on all the continents heard these students' rallying cry and participated in their own cities.

Rallies were held on every continent except Antarctica.

In Berlin, people gathered in front of the U.S. embassy.

HOWELL: Protesters in London lay down in a moment of silence, honoring the Florida school shooting victims.

And in Sydney, Australia, supporters held up signs that read, "America, love your children, not your guns."

Let's talk more about this now with two organizers of the March for Our Lives rally in London, Stephen Paduano and Stephanie Thompson.

Good to have you both with us.

ALLEN: We point out you're both Americans. You organized this march in London.

Stephanie, I know that you're from Colorado, where there was a massacre at a school and a movie theater.

What does this cause mean to you?

And what did today mean to you?

STEPHANIE THOMPSON, MARCH FOR OUR LIVES LONDON RALLY ORGANIZER: Well, it's been something that's weighing heavily on my mind and I'm sure it's been weighing heavily on most people's minds or a lot of people's minds across the U.S. But I've been talking to volunteers and people who came to march.

And just seems that everyone has been touched in some way by gun violence. And that's just not right in a country --

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THOMPSON: -- that is, I mean, the U.S. is a stable, safe, otherwise safe country. It's not right that we are having to fear going to school, going to the movie theater, all those things.

And coming from Colorado, I've just seen so many people within my community affected by this. And since coming to London to study and seeing three more major mass shootings happen and nothing come out of it, I was very inspired by the Parkland students to take action even though I'm far away from home.

HOWELL: People around the world were watching these rallies, including the NRA here in the United States that responded, saying this -- if we can pull this up full screen.

"Gun hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to destroy the Second Amendment and to strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones."

Sorry we didn't pull the quote up but you heard the statement there.

What is your response to that?

ALLEN: Stephen.

STEPHEN PADUANO, MARCH FOR OUR LIVES LONDON RALLY ORGANIZER: Well, it seems like they are on their last arguments here. That is something that doesn't make any sense, given our march yesterday was filled with teenagers who, to the best of my knowledge, none of us had any contact with Hollywood elites and billionaires in the United States.

It's a silly claim to me, you know, they're not coming out with the cogent constitutional public health-minded response that you would expect in a debate among rational citizens of a stable democracy.

So it's inspirational. Makes me hopeful, makes us hopeful that this time we're going to see change happen because we have caught them flatfooted. And we are going to keep going. As you mentioned, we're on every continent except for Antarctica and we have our supporters. And our supporters are voters and our supporters are also those who are about to vote.

ALLEN: Stephen, what was particularly poignant for you, organizing this and taking part and seeing what went on around the world? PADUANO: It was -- I think that the thing that has made me the most hopeful is how young some of these people are because I know the statistic that 76 percent of Americans think that Congress should do more to reduce gun violence in the United States. And I know that we have so many Americans who want to see an assault weapons ban and who want to see universal background checks.

But now I know that the next generation, the generation that will be voting in 2020 and 2024 and all the elections to come, they want this as well. And that's something that's very good to know.

Millennials get criticized quite a bit and I think, if anything, what we're seeing with Parkland, on the streets of Parkland is that the Millennials deserve a lot of praise for not giving up and not surrendering to people, organizations like the NRA, that will engage in base name-calling. That's just made me hopeful.

HOWELL: Stephanie, same question to you there.

How does this movement play in your mind as we get closer to national elections?

THOMPSON: I think it's just the right stuff and the right direction. Something that has frustrated me with past attacks in the U.S. is just how fast it faded from the public conversation. Within a week, no one was talking about it anymore and nothing was happening in Congress.

Here we're a month out and we're talking about it. It's still in the news. It's still on people's minds. And what was so heartening is after the demonstration was done, so many were coming up and telling their ideas of how they can further contribute.

And then they were also saying -- they were asking us, what is the next steps?

What can we do?

And so it's just very encouraging that people are interested, they're passionate and they really want change.

ALLEN: Stephen, final word from you because we saw the biggest massacre ever in Las Vegas last fall, just dozens and dozens and dozens mowed down by a bump stock assault rifle. And we didn't see a movement come out of that.

But we have from these high school kids in Florida.

How do you explain that?

PADUANO: I think what it says is that our generation is the difference. And to be sure, people were certainly calling for the end of bump stocks in the United States. And I think that we're building on the backs of (INAUDIBLE) every movement that has (INAUDIBLE), even the ones that have faded, they're helping us right now.

But the students of Parkland, they are different and our generation is different and we're out here saying that enough is enough. And we are the next generation. But as we know, every four years that people will be competing for the Millennial vote or the youth vote.

[04:40:00]

PADUANO: And now we're making it clear, what it is that we want and we want an end to gun violence. And I think that's why people -- that's why Washington (INAUDIBLE).

ALLEN: We thank you both so much for joining us and talking with us and we wish you all the best and certainly I think the world has changed its mind on Millennials. You guys might -- students at the high school might be the next generation after Millennials. But my goodness. Thank you so much.

HOWELL: Message loud and clear. Thank you both.

ALLEN: Yes, thanks.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Northeastern Australia gets hammered by a very strong storm. Still ahead, our meteorologist Derek Van Dam will bring us up to date on the damage there and what's next for those still in the path of the storm.

ALLEN: Also ahead, he's Italian. But he wasn't always. How Italy's first black senator ended up a member of an anti-immigrant party.

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ALLEN: All right. Toni Iwobi could be the poster child for the immigrant dream. He was born in Nigeria and is now a top lawmaker in Italy's Senate.

HOWELL: You might think that would make him pro-immigration but that is not the case. Our Delia Gallagher has a look at Italy's right-wing first black senator.

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DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toni Iwobi's adopted hometown of Spirano in Northern Italy is proud of their famous son. He's just been elected Italy's first black senator.

An immigrant from Nigeria, Toni married a local and his first job here 40 years ago was sweeping out horse stables. Now the owner of an I.T. company, he visits with his former boss among the thoroughbreds before leaving for a new arena, the Roman senate.

TONI IWOBI, ITALIAN SENATOR: (Speaking Italian). I'm black, I'm proud.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The irony is that the political party he represents, Italy's right-wing League Party, has campaigned to close the country's door to immigrants, their campaign slogan this year, "Stop the Invasion. Italians First."

It's a sentiment which has gained popularity in Italy. In the latest elections the League's support grew to nearly 18 percent of the national vote, making them Italy's third largest party.

Iwobi insists that his party is not racist, that they are against illegal immigrants and for what he calls quality immigration of people who want to work hard like he did and who wait for a visa rather than risking their lives at sea.

"Why do they have to go to another country," he says, "through a tunnel of death?

"There are embassies, consulates, visa offices."

Iwobi says he likes the League for their fiscal policies and Italy's flagging economy needs to be helped first.

"What does Italy have to offer these poor immigrants," he says, "if it can't even guarantee jobs for its own children?"

Iwobi wrote his party guidelines for immigration to stop immigrants from leaving their native countries by encouraging development there, welcome only political refugees and block arrivals of immigrants by sea, a policy which has support in Spirano but might not bring much hope to the thousands of immigrants who arrive on Italy's shores, hoping for the same opportunities Tony Iwobi has enjoyed -- Delia Gallagher, CNN, Spirano, Italy.

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ALLEN: This has been a historic day. The voices of the students asking for gun control are reverberating across the world. We'll have more of their powerful words coming up here in NEWSROOM.

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HOWELL: Just a few minutes away from the top of the hour and our next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. But as we prepare for that, we want to show you again some of these powerful worlds from students in Washington, D.C.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough.

CHAVEZ: I have lived in South L.A. my entire life and lost many loved ones to gun violence. This is normal, normal to the point that I've learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read.

JACLYN CORIN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: So I need each and every one of you, no matter your age, to continue to fight alongside us because hearts cannot pump without blood and I don't want your community to join the ghastly inner circle that mine is now a part of.

In the end we're all fighting for our lives but we are a great generation and we'll be the ones to make America safe. Thank you.

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Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you for being here. I love y'all so much. Never again. You guys are so incredible. I'm just lucky to be in the presence of all of you wonderful people fighting for what is right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not today, NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not today, NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enough is enough. Enough is enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you hope can be accomplished?

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JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that can happen at the legislative level?

We've seen it happen at the state level in places like Florida and here in New York.

PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN AND ACTIVIST: I'm like everyone. I don't know. But this is what we can do. And so I'm here to do it.

WIND: To all the politicians out there, if you take money from the NRA, you have chosen death. If you have not expressed to your constituents a public stance on this issue, you have chosen death. If you do not stand with us by saying we need to pass common sense gun legislation, you have chosen death.

And none of the millions of people marching in this country today will stop until they see those against us out of office because we choose life.

SAMANTHA FUENTES, MARJORY DOUGLAS STONEMAN SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Today is March 24th, March for Our Lives but it is also the birthday of Nick Dworet, someone that was senselessly murdered in front of me. Today is his birthday. I'd like to sing together "Happy Birthday."

One, two, three.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Nick, happy birthday to you.

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ALLEN: My goodness.

What do you say after that?

There are no words.

HOWELL: In her silence she said so much.

ALLEN: Exactly.

Well, top stories are just ahead. We'll have more on this historic day for these students around the world.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. NEWSROOM right back after the break. Stay with us.