- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The students billed as leading the gun control charge “from their parents’ living rooms” after last week’s deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, are receiving help from seasoned left-wing activists.

Deena Katz, co-executive director of the Women’s March LA Foundation, submitted the application for a National Park Service permit for the March for Our Lives, the March 24 rally on the National Mall described as a student-led protest.

The event’s website, which doesn’t mention the Women’s March, says the March for Our Lives was “created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country” and headed by junior Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 teenagers and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Meanwhile, gun-control advocacy groups have become involved in the “sister marches” being planned at more than two dozen U.S. cities and London.

In Denver, the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence applied for a permit for its March 24 rally at the state capitol, according to a state spokesman, while Moms Demand Action, backed by billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, has jumped in even as it tries to keep the spotlight on the teens.

After posting a Facebook event for “NYC-March for Our Lives,” Moms Demand Action insisted that “it is not a Moms Demand Action event,” although the group is “honored and excited to work so closely with the amazing students organizing the March For Our Lives in NYC.”

Women’s March LA spokeswoman Michelle Margolis said Ms. Katz, the Hollywood producer of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” is working on the March For Our Lives in her personal capacity.

“[T]he march is student led and Deena is acting at their behest to help with paperwork, being these logistics are out of their wheelhouse,” Ms. Margolis said in an email. “Also to be clear, Deena is helping as an individual. [T]he women’s march is not associated.”

As far as critics are concerned, there’s quite a bit about the campaign that seems to be outside the wheelhouse of the average high schooler.

Few teens would have the resources and sophistication to pull off a major national protest without the help of experienced political hands, and yet there’s been little or no mention of outside groups as the post-Parkland push for tougher gun laws gains steam.

The news coverage repeatedly has depicted the effort as homegrown, including stories such as the New Yorker magazine’s “How the Survivors of Parkland Began the Never Again Movement” and BuzzFeed’s “Here’s What It’s Like at The Headquarters of the Teens Working to Stop Mass Shootings.”

The BuzzFeed article and photos feature two-dozen Parkland students, at least one wearing pajamas, sprawled on a living room floor as they conduct phone interviews and plan the March For Our Lives, “a demonstration that they hope will serve as the movement’s coming-out party.”

“[R]ather than wait for lawmakers to make a change, the survivors of the shooting are taking matters into their own hands — organizing, and taking action,” Time Magazine said Tuesday in a post. “From their parents’ living rooms, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students are planning a march on Washington, D.C. called March for Our Lives.”

As student Sofia Whitney told CNN: “We’re running the ‘Never Again’ movement, we’re running March For Our Lives, all student-led.”

Not everyone is buying it. Former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke has accused billionaire liberal George Soros of pulling the strings backstage, saying on Twitter the “well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it.”

Is there a Soros connection? The Women’s March, which partners with 100 Soros-funded groups, announced plans for a national school walkout on March 14 run by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, but that event is billed as separate from the March 24 march.

The National Park Service application submitted by Ms. Katz estimates a crowd of 500,000, which would make it one of the largest events on the Mall, rivaling the Women’s March of January 2017, which drew an estimated half-million.

“March For Our Lives is created by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar,” Ms. Katz said in her application, repeating the website’s mission statement.

Plans for the march include 14 jumbotrons, 20 tents, 2,000 chairs, 2,000 portable toilets, a press riser and 20 buses.

“In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns,” said the application. “March For Our Lives believes the time is now.”


Students keep issue in forefront

Whatever their role in organizing the march, the students have certainly succeeded in keeping the firearms debate in the public eye.

“So far, Parkland is *not* fading from the news the way mass shootings usually do,” tweeted Nate Silver, founder of the statistical analysis firm FiveThirtyEight. “The students speaking out makes a pretty big difference.”Some of the post-Parkland advocacy has an amateur feel. The Never Again page on Facebook looks like a teen-run effort, with posts such as “Alex here. Finally got to do a normal kid thing today and got myself a much needed haircut.”

Other sites have a more professional ring. Four days after the shooting, the March For Our Lives domain name was registered with Domains by Proxy, which keeps the identities of its registrants private, followed shortly thereafter by a slick website that includes merchandise sales.

A GoFundMe page created by Cameron Kasky already has raised $1.5 million of its $2 million goal.

“I created the #NeverAgain movement as well as the March for Our lives. Our team has been working hard since day one,” he says on the page.

Meanwhile, a conspiracy theory about the identity of the Parkland students has been debunked.

In Florida, an aide to a Republican state legislator reportedly was fired after he told a reporter that two of the Parkland students in a CNN interview were actually actors, which drew a rebuke from Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“On behalf of the entire Florida House, I sincerely apologize to the students targeted and again commend them for their courage through what is unspeakable tragedy,” he said Tuesday on Twitter.

Several Parkland students, parents and community members appeared Wednesday night on a CNN town hall, along with NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

The Resurgent’s Peter Heck took issue Tuesday with the focus on the Parkland students, blasting the “sick exploitation” of the teens and describing it politically motivated “child abuse.”

“[M]ajor media anchors are shoving microphones in front of the faces of grieving, scarred, and emotional teenagers, exploiting them for one reason: they are saying what media progressives want said,” said Mr. Heck on the conservative website.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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