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Inside Politics

Florida Students Hold Press Conference. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 21, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:03] LORENZO PRADO, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: We lose confidence in our government because we are told that nothing can be done time and time again. And we're tired of hearing that. Because we know there can be change in this country.

Never again should a tragedy of this caliber happen in this country. Never again. As always, be positive, be passionate, and be proud to be an Eagle.

Following me, I have Ryan Deitsch with his speech.

RYAN DEITSCH, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: I apologize to everybody who made their way here. I do not have an actual written or prepared statement, but I am the president and founder of the MSD Improv Club, so hopefully I get something in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ryan, what's your last name again?

DEITSCH: Deitsch, Ryan Deitsch, D-E-I-T-S-C-H.

I'm sorry. What I can say? What can I say that everyone else hasn't already put so eloquently, that all of my fellow students have surprised me with? For the longest time, I've only perceived Douglas as a school of just entitled children and those who jewel. And now I'm left thinking that these are powerful speakers, these are -- this is the future.

I've seen before me my friends, people that I've known since even third grade, have been standing next to me and have been speaking out against what is wrong. And what is wrong is that the life of innocents is being taken day after day after day, and it does not matter what we say. It does not matter how many people die.

The legislature, those in power, have not taken action. They've been using their words, they've using political double talk as much as they can, and it's not a weapon that I want them to be able to use anymore.

They can walk around any question they want, but the more they don't act, the more they don't deserve to be in office. The more that I know me and my friends, we are turning 18. I am a senior. I'm 18 myself now. I can vote, and I know who I'm not voting for.

These people that I've been meeting with, these people that I've seen, none of them have really put it into words what needs to be done, and I will say that I am a high school senior. I do not know the exact course of action to take. I do not know exactly what needs to be done. I just know what we're doing now is nowhere near enough.

If I have to keep seeing neighbors die, if I have to keep seeing friends die, and I have to keep seeing other people on the news deal with this same tragedy, they do not deserve this. America does not deserve this. Humanity does not deserve this.

And I'd just like to go into saying that we -- overall, the media is doing their job, and I appreciate it. But I'd like to say that during the time where we are going to funerals, where people are grieving, I know for a fact that yesterday I walked out of Carmen Schentrup's funeral early because I cannot handle that type of grieving. I cannot handle being in there mourning over the loss of somebody that I have known for at least the past six years.

And I'd just like to say that when I see a camera tracking me as I cry, walking out of a church, that is not acceptable. That is just -- that popularizes the idea that if these killers are out there, if they have these guns, they will use them to get on some leaderboard.

I saw this the next morning after the shooting. There was a top ten shootings in America. And we were at number nine, I believe. There should not be some ratings score. You should not be able to put in a name at the end of that to say that I'm the one who shot 19, I'm the one who shot 23, well, I shot 50. These people are looking for infamy. These people are going out there, getting attention, and America should not stand for that.

I'd also just like to say, overall, me and my friends, they have really shown me what we can do. They've shown me that everyone who's come out today, they are listening. That people are listening to this. And I'm so happy to see that people are listening, but they need to act. And we need to act.

And I know we have the school walkouts already being planned. We have the march on Washington March 24th. But I fear after talking to representatives today that that is not enough.

[12:35:03] That one trip to Tallahassee I knew was not going to be enough, but I don't know how many times I'm going to be having to come up here to just speak to have somebody to listen to me. I know I've been walking into office after office after office and I've spoken to maybe two representatives who already agreed with me. I want to see those people who have spoken out against this. I want to see those people who shot down that bill, who did not let it get past committee. I want to see those people.

I'm not here for a fight. I'm not here to argue with you. I just want to speak. I just want to see your face and know why.

And thank you so much for this opportunity. I'd like to introduce Alfonso Calderon.

ALFONSO CALDERON, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: First and foremost, I'd just like to thank everybody for giving us this platform, and Senator Rader from Parkland who came here. There's one thing I want everybody here today to remember about this. We're just kids. I know myself, I'm only 16. I'm a junior in high school. Most of my worries are, what show I am going to watch at 6 p.m., when do I do my homework, how do I fit in rehearsals for theater.

I know for my other colleagues, it's sports or maybe film. But everybody needs to remember, we are just children. A lot of people think that that disqualifies us from even having an opinion on this sort of matter. As if maybe because we've been through a traumatic experience, that we don't know what we're talking about. That we're speaking irrationally. And I want everybody to remember that is not the case.

We, more than anybody else, understand the violence that comes through certain guns. We, more than anybody else, understand what it feels like to lose somebody. We, more than anybody else, understand what it's like to have a beautiful community like Parkland and have it taken away from us by the media and by everyone else and by Nikolas Cruz, who just ruined its image.

Parkland is a beautiful, safe town, and it is now ruined. I know personally I'm probably going to live there for a pretty long time, and it's not going to be the same. It's always going to be, oh, I'm so sorry to hear that you're from Parkland. I want everybody to remember we are just kids. I'm sorry, it's difficult to talk about this sort of thing because not only -- not even more than a week ago, I was worried about a math test. I was worried about having the school show for the children in the elementary school just a road down.

The way people today have created us -- or not greeted us, as acknowledged by Ryan, is that we aren't being taken seriously enough. Now, I personally don't know the steps that we're going to have to take, but once we figure that out, we're going to take them, and you better believe we're going to take them as soon as possible. Because although we are just kids, we understand. We know. We're old enough to understand financial responsibilities. We are old enough to understand why a senator cares about reelection or not.

We are old enough to understand why someone might want to discredit us for their own political purposes. But we will not be silenced. It has gone on long enough that we -- just because we are kids, we're not allowed to understand. But trust me, I understand.

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. I understand what it's like to text my parents goodbye, I might never, ever get to see you again, I love you. I understand what it's like to fear for your life. And I don't think we should ever be discredited because of that.

I don't think we should ever be silenced because we are just children. I feel like that is powerful and it is one of the only reasons this movement is where it is right now. I'm extremely, extremely angry and sad. And I don't know if I'm going to be traumatized because of this. I don't know if I'm going to have faith in my state and local government anymore. Because what I saw today was discouraging.

But I want everybody here today to know, we will not be discouraged. We will not falter. We will not stop this movement. Because this is more than just us. This is everybody in America. This is for every single kid who fears for their life. This is more than Parkland. This is more than Florida. This is more than the United States.

[12:40:00] This is something serious. It is about human lives. Please, I beg and I demand that every single person in power who has the ability to change the fear that kids feel going back to school, that they do something because I want everybody to know, I'm supposed to be going back to school in less than a week. I'm not ready. I don't think anybody here is ready. I don't think anybody here is ready to go back to class and just have an empty seat. And you know that empty seat is because someone's dead. Because somebody lost their lives.

And I don't know how I'm going to cope with it. I've spoken to grief counselors, but grief counselors can only do so much. What we need is action. And we need it now more than ever because people are losing their lives, and it is still not being taken seriously. I don't know what it's going to take. I don't know what it's going to take to get some people to realize this is more than just reelections. This is more than just political gain. This is more than conspiracy theories, than people trying to disqualify us from even having an opinion.

This matters to me more than anything else in my entire life. And I want everybody to know I personally, I'm prepared to drop out of school. I am prepared to not worry about anything else besides this because change might not come today. It might not come tomorrow. It might not even come March 24th when we march for our lives down in Washington. But it's going to happen, and it's going to happen before my lifetime because I will fight every single day, and I know everyone else here will fight for the rest of their lives to see sensible gun laws in this country, and so that kids don't have to fear going back to school. Thank you.

Next, I'd like to introduce Sarah.

SARAH CHADWICK, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: Hello, everyone. My name is Sarah Chadwick, and I'm a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

MSD is not only my school but my home. And on February 14, 2018, an intruder broke into my home and robbed 17 innocent souls of a chance to impact the world. These outstanding and compassionate Eagles left us too soon due to the lack of gun control in our state and country. This atrocious act not only broke the hearts of our community but broke the hearts of the entire world.

We cry, we mourn, and most importantly, we ask why. I've been asking that question a lot lately, and I haven't gotten an answer that has satisfied me. So we came up with a solution to the answer that we've never gotten. It has a name. Never again.

Because never again should a child be afraid to go to school. Never again should students have to protest for their lives. Never again should an innocent life be taken while trying to gain an education. And never again should I feel guilty to be alive because Peter, Carmen, Scott, Feis, Hixon, Meadow, Jamie, Alyssa, Joaquin, Helena, Nick, Alaina, Cara, Martin, Luke, Gina, and Alex are not.

That is why we have organized this revolution. For them. A revolution created by students for students. Because at the end of the day, we're all positive, we're all passionate, and we're all proud to be an Eagle. Thank you.

And I'd like to introduce my good friend, Sofie Whitney.

SOFIE WHITNEY, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: I'm going to make this quick. Hi, my name is Sofie Whitney, and I'm a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The place I've called home for four years, the place that I've felt safer more than anything. The place where over a week ago the biggest thing that ever happened was probably just a good season of baseball. But for the rest of history, we will now be known as that high school where the biggest high school mass shooting occurred.

With other shootings by this point most people would have forgotten about us, but not this time. My classmates and I are probably the most determined group of people you will ever meet. People are talking about how we aren't serious because we're children, but have you heard my friends talk? We're serious. We are here to discuss with our state legislators how we can prevent what happened to us, but as Alfonso said, I'm feeling a little discouraged about that.

[12:45:04] I don't want this to happen again. I wouldn't wish what happened to us on my worst enemy. Because no one should ever have to go through what we went through. Seventeen of our classmates and teachers were murdered at the hands of a mentally unstable monster, something that easily could have been prevented by a proper background check and a mental health exam. An evil boy with a weapon of war took 17 people from their families. How many more people have to die before something changes?

We will not let those 17 beautiful souls die for nothing because we are going to make a change. We will not give up. This is only the beginning of our history. Please be on the right side of it.

Help us. Help us so children don't fear for going to school. Help us so mass shootings aren't inevitable. Help us so our children, our grandchildren, and their children after that don't have to march for their lives. Help us for our 17 fallen brothers and sisters. Help us so no one else dies. Thank you.

Next is Delaney Tarr.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delaney, your last name please?



TARR: Well, as you just heard, my name is Delaney Tarr, and I'm a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School.

I'm a senior, who, late last night after getting in from a long and arduous trip to Tallahassee was asked to write a speech, a seven- minute-long speech because that is what we had to deliver to the media, to the people of the country. And I realized in that moment how exhausted I was, how exhausted we all are, and how overwhelmed we all are. And to see us listed as these heroes, as these bastions of change, it's scary because we are teenagers. We are children. And that's why I chose to speak from the heart. Because we're teenagers.

Because instead of writing words out of an overworked brain, I figured why not stand in front of these cameras and show them exactly how I feel, show them I'm not a crisis actor, that I am not going off of these pre-written speeches given to me by another person. Because speaking from the heart is what we do best.

This movement, this movement created by students, led by students, is based in emotion. It is based in passion and it is based in pain. Our biggest flaws, our tendency to be a bit too aggressive, our tendency to lash out, things that you expect from a normal teenager, these are our strengths. The only reason that we've gotten so far is because we are not afraid of losing money. We are not afraid of getting reelected or not getting reelected. We have nothing to lose. The only thing we have to gain at this point is our safety.

And coming here today as a teenager full of passion, a bit too much passion, was very disappointing. As you've heard from my colleagues and my peers, we've been to many rooms. We've spoken to only a few legislators, and try as they might, the most we've gotten out of them is, we'll keep you in our thoughts, you are so strong, you are so powerful.

We've heard enough of that. We've heard enough of we are so strong, we are so powerful because that is not why we are here today. We are not here to be patted on the back. We are not here to be told that we're great, that we're doing so much, because we know what we're doing and we're doing it for a reason. We're doing it so our legislators, so that our lawmakers will make a change, so that they will take us seriously, so that they will not dismiss us any longer, so they won't reschedule, so they won't push us into another room as they dance around our questions. Because we came here prepared, and we are going to come to every single meeting with every single legislator prepared.

We know what we want. We want gun reform. We want common sense gun laws. We want stronger mental health checks and background checks to work in conjunction. We want a better age limit. We want privatized selling to be completely reformed so you can't just walk into a building with $300 and walk out with an AR-15.

We want change and know how to get this change. And the bill that was not passed yesterday, that was shot down here in this building was very disappointing. And it is a step back in our movement. We've been asked many a time how we feel about it, how we're going to go from here. And all we can say is that we're going to keep moving forward because we don't have a choice. We don't have the ability to stop, to think, oh, no, we're upset about this, we failed at one thing. Because we didn't fail.

The people around us failed us. And if they continue to fail us, then they will no longer be in office because soon we will be given the ability to vote, and we will vote them out. And the people around us will vote them out. They must do right by us, or they will lose their jobs, and we have brought that up to them time and time again because this is no longer a chance for you to just dismiss us, for you to ignore us, and keep doing whatever it is you want to do while telling us that you want us to be safe and you don't want anything like this to happen again but not taking any action.

[12:50:04] To shoot down a bill like that is absolutely abhorrent. To not even give it a chance to be discussed, that disgusts me. That disgusts my peers because we know what we've been through and we know that this needs to be changed, that there needs to be some solution here. We've had enough of thoughts and prayers. We've had enough of we're in your consideration, we're going to think about it, we're going to tell you how we feel because we support you so much because we know that that is not true. If you supported us, you would have made a change long ago, and you would be making change now.

So this is to every lawmaker out there. No longer can you take money from the NRA. No longer can you fly under the radar doing whatever it is that you want to do, because we are coming after you. We are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action, demanding that you make a change. Thank you.

DIMITRI HOTH, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: My name is Dimitri Hoth, and this is an open letter that I've written.

To whom it may concern, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are the three fundamental ideas on which our republic was founded. One, life. Yet senselessly children are dying. My classmates and friends are dead.

Two, liberty. Yet we are trapped because we students are afraid of going to school where we might find ourselves trapped in a room or closet, hiding from the barrel of a gun.

Three, pursuit of happiness. Yet, we are not happy about the decisions that are being made in our government. Our elected officials are not acting in our best interests, nor are they protecting the people of this country so they can pursue that happiness.

On February 14, 2018, at 2:20 p.m., the fire alarm went off. This was a second one of the day. I had complained to my teacher and said that I wasn't going outside again. It was hot, and I was tired. Yet, she said that we had to go. She was following protocol.

Little did we know our evacuation route was taking us directly to the shooter. If it had not been for the bravery and strength of the faculty and administration, we would have walked straight into the shooter's line of fire, and even more of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, myself included, would not be standing here before you today. It is nothing but luck that saved us from being killed. And this is not OK.

While the people around me recognize the gunshots, all I could hear was get down, get down, get down, and shooter. Without thinking, I ran to the opposite side of campus, fearing for my life. A school that once reverberated with laughter and inquisitive thoughts now reverberates with the screams and cries of thousands of students fearing for their lives. This is not OK.

Trapped in a classroom sharing a feeling of numbness and agony with my peers, our only source of information was what our teachers were telling us, and the information that was circulating within the school via group chats. Guys, this is not a drill. Five people are dead, 20 injured. This was a message in one of my group chats. That is not OK.

We received videos from our friends and peers being shot and being shot at. Videos that shook us to our cores. Helicopters above us and police sirens ringing in our ears, the sounds of choppers now haunt us and police sirens stalk us. Two days after the shooting when I was picking up my medicine from a CVS drive through, the cash register drawer receded and made a noise that I swore was a gunshot. I shouldn't have been allowed to make that association. That is not OK.

As students, we should not have to fear for our lives. We should not have to run for our lives. We should not have to hear the sound of gunfire on a school campus. We should not have to hear the screams of our peers, of our friends, of our teachers, of our mentors. That is not OK.

We are losing sleep. All we can remember are the screams and cries and stampede of feet running for their lives. Some of us are unable to stay awake. All we can do is sleep because when we are awake, we are haunted by the memories of that day, of what happened to us. We can only imagine what could have been avoided if common sense gun control had been implemented after the first mass shooting, as was the case with so many other countries.

Schools were once places of learning, of respect, of dignity. They have now become sacrilege. They are now shooting grounds, and this is not OK.

So I ask, Congress and Senate, what if it had happened to you or to your children? Would it take you so long to make a difference? Would it take you this long to affect change and create policy and propose laws that could stem the tide of violence? Would it?

No more. No more placing nonsensical politics above our lives.

[12:55:00] No more accepting donations from the NRA who seem to care more about their right to own a gun than the lives of American children. They protect the Second Amendment, yet the NRA doesn't seem to realize that it was written 241 years ago. During that interval, our guns have changed tremendously, yet our gun laws have not. And that is not OK.

The National Rifle Association pushes to preserve our right to bear arms for the Second Amendment. Yet what they don't say is that the Second Amendment was written in order to keep and preserve a well- regulated militia. The United States has the most powerful military in the world. There is no need to keep and preserve a well-regulated militia.

We live in a first world country that many dream of coming to. They dream of coming here because we serve and protect our citizens, yet at this moment, we are not. And lawmakers are slapping us students in the face. And this is not OK.

I implore you, Congress and Senate, out with partisan politics. Now is not the time to be fighting over whose views are right and wrong. Now is the time for action. I beseech our American lawmakers from Congress and Senate to stop slinging mud across the aisle and come up with a bipartisan solution to an obvious epidemic of gun violence and mass shooting in America. A solution that will save lives. A solution that will prevent another mass shooting like the ones at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook Elementary, San Bernardino, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and most recently my school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Now is the time for change. Never again will this happen in our country, to our students, to us. We the students will make a difference. Our voices will be heard, and we will not be silenced.

So I say, students, stand up for yourselves and stand up for others. We are the future. Let us change the future and let us do it now. Signed, Dimitri Hoth, senior, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 years old, survivor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we able to ask some questions from students?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have actually one more speaker, with due respect. And -- then Representative Jacobs and I have a few comments. But let's hear our last speaker.

Good afternoon. My name is (INAUDIBLE), I am 16 years old, and I'm a tenth grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

To think last week at this exact time, I was complaining about not wanting to go to rehearsal after school and trying to think of an excuse to get out of it. That day will be with all of us and all of our parents, all of our teachers for the rest of our lives.

When we saw this stuff on the news, I wept and wondered how anyone could let this happen, how our government could let this happen to men, women, and our children. We don't want to take away your guns. We don't want to get rid of the Second Amendment. We want things to be done to save our lives. We want gun policies that prevent an 18- year-old from killing 17 of our friends. We want mental health tests that won't allow them to purchase these guns.

When did politics and money from the NRA become more important than our lives? Our message is simple, and it's never again.

To Marion Hammer and to everyone at the NRA and everyone affiliated with the NRA, we are not afraid of you. We will not be silenced by anything that you have to say. We are here. Our voices are loud. And we're not stopping until change happens.

Never again will this ever happen to any one of my friends. I will never -- no one's parents should be put through that ever again. Never again. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everybody, so very much. I think that they have said more than we possibly could, and I know that Representative Jacobs has a few thoughts as we move into the afternoon session for meetings.

REP. KRISTIN JACOBS (D), FLORIDA: Thank you, Senator. We've had a group of kids that we've scheduled for --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Once again, we're following these dramatic developments in Tallahassee. You've been listening to student survivors from Parkland. They're speaking out after meeting with lawmakers in the Florida state capitol of Tallahassee. They're turning their anger and anguish into action.


CROWD: Never again! Never again! Never again!


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.