Florida, angry and grieving, takes gun protest to streets

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PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Thousands of angry students, parents, teachers and neighbors of a Florida high school where 17 people were killed demanded Saturday that immediate action be taken on gun-control legislation, insisting they would not relent until their demands were met.

The rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale gave a political outlet to the growing feelings of rage and mourning sparked by the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities say a former student who had been expelled, had mental health issues and been reported to law enforcement, used a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle to kill students and staff.

“Because of these gun laws, people that I know, people that I love, have died, and I will never be able to see them again,” Delaney Tarr, a student at the school, told the crowd swamping the steps and courtyard at the federal courthouse.

The crowd chanted: “Vote them out!” and held signs calling for action. Some read: “#Never Again,” ”#Do something now” and “Don’t Let My Friends Die.”

Student Emma Gonzalez told the crowd politicians should stop taking donations from the National Rifle Association. “Shame on you,” she yelled, and the crowd repeated her.

“A lot of people are saying that these kids are activists, these kids need to be politicians,” she later told a reporter. “But a lot of us are just other students who figured there’s strength in numbers. And we want to be sure that we end up having our message sent across. And then we can get back to our normal everyday lives, you know.”

Laurie Woodward Garcia, the mother of a 14-year-old girl, echoed many in the crowd, who said they believed that this shooting would lead to change, though so many others had not.

“If there’s something that we can unite on as Democrats and Republicans and Independents, it’s our children. So it will happen,” she said.

The rally came as new details emerged about the suspect, Nikolas Cruz.

From a mosaic of public records, interviews with friends and family and online interactions, it appears Cruz was unstable and violent to himself and those around him — and that when notified about his threatening behavior, law enforcement did little to stop it.

Cruz’s mother died in November and his father died years ago.

He reportedly left a suburban Palm Beach County mobile home where he had been staying after his mother’s death because his benefactor gave him an ultimatum: you or the gun.

The Palm Beach Post reports Rocxanne Deschamps said, “He bought a gun and wanted to bring it into my house” in public comments that have since been removed from her Facebook page.

Chad Bennett, a friend of Deschamps’, said Cruz “chose the gun and he left.”

He then went to live with another family.

Earlier, Florida’s child welfare agency investigated after Cruz cut himself in an online video, but found him stable, according to state records.

The Sun-Sentinel reported that Florida’s Department of Children and Families investigated when Cruz posted a video on the social media network Snapchat showing him cutting his arms in 2016. The agency was called to investigate. Cruz, then 18, was listed as an “alleged victim” of medical neglect and inadequate supervision; his adoptive mother, then-68-year-old Lynda Cruz, the “alleged perpetrator.”

“Mr. Cruz was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms,” the Florida DCF abuse hotline was told in August 2016, the paper reported. “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for.”

According to the paper, DCF’s investigation was completed that Nov. 12. The agency concluded Cruz had not been mistreated by his mother, was receiving adequate care from a mental health counselor and was attending school.

Mental health center staff “came out and assessed the (victim and) found him to be stable enough not to be hospitalized,” the DCF report said.

Cruz had been diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder that often leads to social awkwardness and isolation, and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

The FBI said a person close to Cruz called the FBI’s tip line and provided information about Cruz’s weapons and his erratic behavior. The caller was concerned Cruz could attack a school. The agency acknowledged the tip should have been shared with the FBI’s Miami office and investigated, but it was not.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said his office had received more than 20 calls about Cruz in the past few years.


Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida.


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  • Laughing Out Loud

    The problem is a bureau that does not care about you, your family or your property. You are a tax-generating instrument, nothing more.

  • Paul Brandt

    Do we really need more gun laws for criminals to ignore, or is it enough that criminals already ignore all gun laws? Killing others is already illegal. Taking a gun into a school is already illegal. For a criminal to get a gun, will always be easy, because they have no problem taking things that don’t belong to them, that’s their nature, they’re criminals!

  • J.B.

    Check out Chicago’s murder rate if you think more “laws” are going keep you “safe”..
    Armed security works pretty well in most banks to guard money and no one has a problem with it.
    What is the problem putting them in schools to guard the kids?
    Too simple and obvious?
    If guns are the problem, why is it the first people you call when this crap happens is..more people with guns?
    Circle jerk logic logic for people with more of a political agenda than common sense.

  • Common Cents

    The military murders at least 17 kids every day. Why not protest THAT loss of innocent life? Oh that’s right, the military and police are your infallible gods.

  • Kevin Rahe

    The federal government should enact a law that prevents states from advertising that in certain kinds of places (e.g. schools, churches), someone who wants to harm people is likely to find little to none of the resistance they might find in other public places.

    • Chief Waukazoo

      I don’t see signs out in front of houses proclaiming “this is a gun free zone” I guess most people don’t think that would be very smart!

  • Homer

    Here is what the gun-control protesters are promoting:

    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1,500,000 Armenians were unable to defend themselves and were rounded up and exterminated.

    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. Between 1929 and 1953, 20,000,000 political dissidents were unable to defend themselves and were exterminated.

    In 1935, China established gun control. From 1948 to 1952, 20,000,000 political dissidents were rounded up and exterminated.

    In 1938, Germany established gun control. Between 1939 and 1945, 13,000,000 citizens were unable to defend themselves and were exterminated.

    In 1964, Guatemala established gun control. Between 1964 and 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians were unable to defend themselves and were rounded up and exterminated.

    In 1970, Uganda established gun control. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

    Be very careful what you wish for!