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Gun Control Advocates Hold Vigil For Parkland Shooting Victims

A vigil and rally against gun violence was held in St. Petersburg's Williams Park Saturday night in response to the mass shooting in Broward County.

The names of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stone Douglas High School were read aloud. The crowd of more than 100 people responded "We will remember" as they held lit candles.

Local activists and politicians also called for more restrictive gun laws, particularly on assault weapons. Speakers included Pinellas County School Board chair Rene Flowers, St. Petersburg City Council chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of Pinellas County.

Flowers shared her personal experience with gun violence. She said her 16-year-old niece was shot and killed by her 17-year-old boyfriend in 2016.

"He said he was playing around, but that ended her life," she said. "And so began my families charge and challenge when it comes to guns being on the streets and in the hands of our children."

Flowers called on the crowd to vote out politicians who would not support more restrictions on buying guns.

"As I saw those students running out of the school I thought, 'But for the grace of God, there go Pinellas County School students,'" she said.

One of those in the crowd was Largo resident Ellen Babb. She said her nephew is a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and was in the building when the shooting took place.

"He's attending funerals and I'm here," she said. "I don't understand when this is going to stop. It's just crazy and finally it just hit a little too close to home."

Babb says she planned to sign on with one of the seven local political organizations that planned the rally, because she felt like action was the only way to honor the lives lost.

Gun control advocates signed up new members and provide information to people who wanted to put pressure on their elected representatives.

Vicki Dunn is with the activist group Indivisible. She said many of the organizers were not interested in just holding another vigil and then going home.

"We're sick of that," she said. "We want to have some action come out of this. We don't want these deaths to just be more names on a long list."

Helen Yettaw, who drove to the rally from Hernando County, said she was ready to accept that call to action.

"We cannot allow children to be mowed down in their schools and people mowed down in their churches," she said. "This is just sad and ridiculous."

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
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