"Yes, we can make change," says Seabreeze High School student.
An enormous crowd of at least 1,000 people held signs high in the air as they marched on the East International Boulevard bridge in Daytona Beach in solidarity with the other March For Our Lives events across the country protesting gun violence on Saturday, March 24.
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting on Valentine's Day, this year's March For Our Lives presented an opportunity for locals to advocate for banning assault weapons, place stricter gun laws and stand against arming teachers in schools. In the crowd were retired teachers, students from nearby schools and members from political organizations. The event was organized by three Ormond Beach women: Rita Press, Risa Ross and Lee Dunkel.
The Parkland shooting came very close to impacting Press and her family in a negative way, as her daughter's nephew Sid Fischer attends Parkland and was hiding in one of the classrooms shot at through the window by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Two of his classmates died in front of him.
When Press visited her family a few weeks ago, they expressed that they couldn't believe Parkland would be forever remembered as the place where the tragedy happened.
“And I said no," Press said. "You’ll be the place that made things happen.”
Dunkel said Parkland was like the "straw that broke the camel's back" in terms of recent gun violence. Locally, she said it opened people's eyes due to the similarities between Parkland and Ormond Beach, which have comparable demographics.
“All of the sudden it’s like, it can happen here," Dunkel said.
In attendance at the march was 14-year-old Jonathan Weinrich, who is a freshman at Seabreeze High School. He feels that state representatives are doing the opposite of what the majority of people want, and that while young voices can make an impact, it's frustrating as well because there aren't many things they can participate in right now.
“These protests and the walkouts make the biggest difference because it shows that students do have an opinion about this, and we feel strongly that what they’re doing is completely wrong," Weinrich said.
Russell Zimmer is a retired special education teacher from Ft. Lauderdale. He said this event was important to him.
"It's wonderful to see this in Daytona Beach," Zimmer said. "I never would've expected this."
But Ross said the march isn't just about having one successful day, but that the purpose is to educate, register and eventually vote for change. She said people need to realize their votes matter.
“This isn’t like, hold your signs and complain and be finished," Ross said. "This is the start. This is a long road. It’s a start of a long conversation.”