15-year-old Hollywood resident Isabella Javellana is an activist with Manuel Oliver's organization Change the Ref.EXPAND
15-year-old Hollywood resident Isabella Javellana is an activist with Manuel Oliver's organization Change the Ref.
Photo by Ayurella Horn-Muller

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Joined Parkland Victims' Parents in Coral Springs Gun Control Rally

Audiences were spellbound by a video of a young girl pirouetting beautifully across a stage Friday night at the Coral Springs Museum of Art. The 14-year-old leaping across a screen was Jaime Guttenberg, one of the 17 victims murdered by a school shooter on February 14th, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Her dad, Fred Guttenberg, closed out a poignant speech in an emotional rally against gun violence with the footage of his daughter dancing. "I don't know if my daughter died instantly," he said. "I don't know if my daughter suffered." The grieving father spoke to why he got involved in activism after the tragedy. "When I think about Jaime running down the hallway, fighting for her life, with an active shooter at her back, I have no choice."

Founder of Orange Ribbons for Jaime, Guttenberg advocated for "Orange Wave in November," the organization's campaign challenging dads to vote for gun safety in the coming election. His speech emphasized his goal to break the gun lobby. "I do blame them for holding legislators and legislation hostage." He said, "And I do think if they were irrelevant, more would have been done, and my daughter and other victims of gun violence would be here today."

Met with a standing ovation, his talk was followed by words from fellow activist Manuel Oliver. Oliver’s son Joaquin was killed alongside Jaime in the tragic school shooting. "I lost my son and my best friend," Oliver said as video clips of his teenage boy singing and dancing played onscreen, highlighting the spirit of the slain 17-year-old child. "I miss my kid."

Oliver, the man behind youth empowerment organization Change the Ref, also focused on how he and his wife Patricia use art to spread their messages, from predicting the end of the NRA, to fighting the initiative to arm teachers in schools, and advocating against 3-D gun manufacturers."I'm an artist. I was an artist before this. So we decided to fight this with art."

Everytown for Gun Safety, Orange Ribbons for Jaime, Change the Ref and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America were joined by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Everytown and possible 2020 presidential candidate. “I don’t know how anyone follows both of you,” Bloomberg told Guttenberg and Oliver, who were seated up front. He then urged community members to get involved by ensuring Florida laws on gun control get enforced.

Bloomberg also shared his personal link to the Parkland shooting: February 14th is the former mayor's birthday. “So every year I’ll think about it. I’ll think about you. I’ll try to remember the names, or not," he said. “But I’ll remember what happened, and I’ll remember that we said we were going to do something about it.”

Artwork by father of slain Parkland student Joaquin Oliver depicts a student hiding under a classroom desk from a school shooter. Manuel Oliver tells the crowd at Friday's gun reform rally that he and his wife Patricia: "use art to give a voice to victims."EXPAND
Artwork by father of slain Parkland student Joaquin Oliver depicts a student hiding under a classroom desk from a school shooter. Manuel Oliver tells the crowd at Friday's gun reform rally that he and his wife Patricia: "use art to give a voice to victims."
Photo by Ayurella Horn-Muller

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student activists Sauri Kaufman, Casey Sherman, and Daniel Tabares also took to the podium to share their messages of hope. “I like to think about community as a puzzle,” said Kaufman, the first speaker of the night. “Even though there are many different organizations which represent the different pieces with different views on how to end gun violence, each organization fits into the puzzle.”

Lead student organizer of March for Our Lives in Parkland, Douglas senior Sherman went next. The 17-year-old focused on the nation’s polarization. “People are dying, so why are we spending so much time fighting each other instead of fighting for the lives at stake?”

Sophomore Daniel Tabares was the last student to take the platform, telling listeners how this last year inspired him to have courage. “I'm continuing to learn what courage looks like. I have seen it last week in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s powerful testimony.”

“I want to inspire others to find their voice as well,” Tabares told New Times. “We should join forces and stop the fighting between ourselves. We should find a solution.”

A 15-year-old from McCarthur High School in Hollywood, Isabella Javellana says she was motivated to keep fighting after hearing the speeches. “This movement [to me] means strength, power, the youth that connects and comes together in a hard time.” Standing at the front of an emptying room, Javellana jumped up on the podium that Guttenberg, Oliver, Bloomberg, and her peers had just occupied. She raised her hand in a fist, high above her head, in support of a movement that has swept a nation. “We all want change because this is for our lives and the time where we all need to unite.”

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