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Students who Survived Florida Shooting Organize March on Florida State Capital. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired February 21, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is New Day with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is New Day. About 100 students who survived the high school massacre will soon march to the state capital in Florida. They are getting ready right now and they are taking their fight from gun reform directly to lawmakers and the governor. But they have already suffered a setback. The Republican controlled House refused to even debate an assault weapons ban yesterday. Instead they chose to debate a bill that declares pornography a public health risk.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: This comes as President Trump tweeted his support to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and directing his Justice Department to draft a ban on bump stocks. The president will host victims of mass shootings at the White House today as the national debate over gun control takes center stage at a CNN town hall tonight.
CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live in Tallahassee with our top story. Dianne?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're outside the Tallahassee Civic Center right now. In just a few moments, about 100 of those students, those survivors from Stoneman Douglas, are going to be coming through that lobby. You can probably see through the window there, marching out here, putting all their stuff that they slept on the floor in sleeping bags, pillows and blankets inside that civic center overnight. And then they're going to come back out here and march to the capital. They have lists of demands. They are unique demands. Each student is
hoping they're going to get a chance to talk to these lawmakers about what it is they want to see happen so they don't have school shootings at other schools like what happened at their school one week ago today. They're setting it up sort of like this. They have roughly 70 meetings with Republicans and Democrats. About 10 students per meeting because they say they want the one-on-one feel. They feel like they'll be more effective that way. It's a more personal feel to these meetings.
They're also going to meet with the Republican attorney general, Pam Bondi, and they're going to to meet with Republican governor Rick Scott. As you can see here, I'm going to let you see. They're walking out. They've got their pillows, their blankets, coming to this bus. Again, they're coming in small groups because they are trying to -- again, these are kids, they are trying to get all their stuff together. They've got about an hour and a half to two hours of sleep most of them told me overnight. Some of that was excitement. Others told me that they were staying up late writing speeches, writing bullet points. They want to make sure they get this right. They know that this is an opportunity. They know this is something they say was organic, that they created and they don't want to miss. They don't want to lose that.
So some of the kids I talked to, sophomores, juniors, seniors, say they were writing up these talking points. That want to make sure that their feelings on gun control, their feelings on mental health, are going to be expressed properly to those lawmakers.
Again, I say they're going to get that time with the governor. That's later this afternoon. You can probably see the bus here. And again, all this media, these students have been really good at getting the attention, using social media. And they know that. They say they realize they come from a point of privilege. These are well-educated kids from a mostly affluent community, and they're using what they learned in school to try to get this attention. So we're going to keep on this and we'll be marching with them to the capital. Alisyn, Chris?
CAMEROTA: Dianne, that is such a good point that you make. If there's one group of Americans who know how to be tested, it's public high school students. They do it all the time. And so they have the skills to kind of perfect these talking points as they head to the capital. So obviously we will be watching them as they set off. Thank you very much.
Let's speak now with some of those students in Tallahassee. We have Julia Bishop and Daniel Bishop. They're siblings. They attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. They're coming to us via face time because you guys are on the move so you're going to carry us with you as you walk to the capitol. So Daniel what messages are you bringing to your state lawmakers and the governor today?
DANIEL BISHOP, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: Just to please just hear our cries, please just hear our cries. We're absolutely begging. We survived something that no one should have to go through ever again. And that's why the never again movement is happening.
CAMEROTA: And Julia, specifically, do you feel it's your responsibility to present the lawmakers some specifics of what you want, or are you just starting this conversation?
JULIA BISHOP, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: Ultimately we want it to be both. We are going to give them ideas for what we want the legislation to be, what we need to have passed in order that there are no mass shootings in the state of Florida and also the country itself. But any step is a step in the right direction. We know that right now in our country there is -- people are unwilling to work together, but we need to put gridlock aside. We don't need across the aisle, but we need to come to the middle of it and we need to make some compromise.
CAMEROTA: We're looking at live pictures as you're talking to us. Obviously the technology of this is going to be a little bit compromised because you guys are on the move. You're marching with your laptop via Facebook. And we appreciate that you're giving us this bird's-eye view of how you're all first putting your sleeping bags in the bus and heading to the capitol.
So listen, guys, yesterday you had what I would consider to be a setback to your movement which is the state legislature decided not even to take up debate about assault weapons. They voted not even to talk about it. What was your reaction when you heard that?
DANIEL BISHOP: We were heartbroken. We were really, really, really upset.
JULIA BISHOP: But also, this fuels the fire for us to come with even more passion, and we're going to tell them exactly why --
CAMEROTA: Obviously we're having a little bit of audio problems because they are in motion as they're heading out of their building. Can you guys hear me?
DANIEL BISHOP: Yes, we can hear you.
CAMEROTA: I guess my point is, I understand you were heartbroken, but it does just light a fire under you. But the question is, how long can you guys sustain this? Obviously high school students have other pressing issues. You have tests to take, you have college to get ready for. You have all of your afterschool activities. How long can you keep up the passion and the stamina for what this is going to take?
DANIEL BISHOP: This is the most important thing right now. This is above everything.
JULIA BISHOP: Ultimately everything else has been pushed aside because there are innocent lives at stake, and we don't want this to happen to any more people. We don't want people to have to go to school and feel unsafe.
CAMEROTA: Are you prepared for how long of a haul this is going to be for all of you? Are you prepared for how hard it has been for adults to try to get any change to gun violence for the past decade is?
DANIEL BISHOP: I don't know if I'm prepared, but I have to be because I know I have to speak up for the people who can't speak because they have either fallen or they don't have the ability.
JULIA BISHOP: They're injured, hurt. Our friends are shot. They're recovering in the hospital right now. We know that we at least owe this to them to put up a good fight. And we're not going to rest just because people are unwilling to listen or they have their own opinions on what they should be doing in order to fix this issue. But we will not stop fighting and using our voices.
DANIEL BISHOP: Never. Never, ever.
CAMEROTA: Julia and Daniel Bishop, thank you very much for being with us as you make your march to the state capital. Obviously we will be watching you every step of the way. Thank you very much for taking the time.
DANIEL BISHOP: Thank you very much.
JULIA BISHOP: Thank you.
CUOMO: Our Dianne Gallagher is walking with the kids as they make their weigh to the statehouse. Let's check in with her now. Who do you have with you?
GALLAGHER: I have Dmitri Hoff with me, Chris. I actually rode the bus down with him. And we're going to pull him away for just a couple seconds because they got to get ready and put his things on there. But Dmitri, talk to me about -- you told me you were up all night trying to make sure this went right. What did you do overnight in the civic center?
DMITRI HOFF, SURVIVED FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: It was kind of chaos back in the rooms as the people were sleeping. I was in the hallway, between there and my cot, using my cot as a desk just researching gun laws, statistics, making sure I had every tool in my arsenal to go up against the congress people and our representatives to make sure I had an airtight argument for whatever they throw at us and make sure that my concerns were accurately voiced.
I was up all night working on a speech that I hopefully will be able to do at the press conference at 12:15. And I think that it's a joint effort, so a lot of other teens were working together. I was working together with the people that were in my group coming up with strategies and things like that, and topics, like what we want to talk about.
GALLAGHER: Who specifically are you going to meet with? Do you know yet?
HOFF: I know our liaison is with Moskowitz. We have our schedule and we're meeting with a lot of people. And I'm really excited for it, but particularly names I don't really remember off the top of my head.
GALLAGHER: You are meeting with Republicans and Democrats?
HOFF: Yes, we are. We're meeting with a lot of Republicans who did not -- Republicans and Democrats who did not vote yesterday. They decided not to cast their vote. And so I plan on asking them why they didn't cast their vote. What made them think this wasn't an important vote, because certainly to us it was extremely important.
GALLAGHER: And there was a phone call on the bus yesterday, Congressman Ted Deutch. Talk to me a little bit about that where he was offering support for you guys.
HOFF: Yes, Congressman Ted Deutch throughout all of this has offered his support, and I think it's really important that one of cower Congress people has our back throughout this entire experience. It's really great to know that we can contact his office at any time if there's anything we do need up here, any information we need or need to speak to anybody about that. It's really -- I like it a lot.
GALLAGHER: Thank you very much, Dmitri. I'll let you put your stuff on the bus right. Chris, again, we're going to walk with these students to the state capital before these meetings begin. They have a long, full agenda.
CUOMO: All right, Dianne, thank you very much. Let us know what develops along the way.
Joining us is CNN political analyst David Gregory and reporter and editor at large for CNN politics Chris Cillizza. So David, we're certainly featuring these kids because they're a different aspect to these tragedies than what we've seen before, victims that are young enough to have a real reservoir of sympathy for what they've lived through, and old enough to speak their own mind. But they're not alone at all. You've got 97 percent of Americans polled say that they want something to change with background checks. I think you have to be careful about the general and specific, 97 is the general, that's huge. Background checks is the specific goal. So the question is, do you believe this could be a tipping point?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think something is different in the ways that we've been talking about, young people, high school students who have literally faced this horror, face to face. They're also of a generation where they have grown up since the time that they were in preschool actually, where they have had to do active shooter drills at their school. All of us of parents of young enough kids to have had to explain what that is and why that's necessary know that that's a horrible thing to have to force them to face that reality.
So there's a new generation of activism that has to only begin here. That student was talking about getting up to speed on gun laws and being able to debate lawmakers. It's more than that. As we've been saying, it's about activism in terms of registering voters, about channeling the energy to vote on this issue, whether it's in state government or in primaries for Congressional races or even at the presidential level.
CAMEROTA: So Chris Cillizza, we're watching them as they are getting organized, all now gathering together. Chris Cillizza, you're a jaundiced political type.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's fair.
CAMEROTA: What in your cold-blooded reality check, when 100 teenagers show up at the statehouse with all of the zeal and the passion that these kids have, having lived through this tragedy, do lawmakers sit up and take notice or do they just pay them lip service because, guess what, you're not voters yet?
CILLIZZA: Look, politicians pay attention to anyone who is passionate because passion equals your chances of voting going up. And they are ultimately in the customer service business. If you were standing for reelection every two years, you would listen to what your constituents would say.
What I think we have to be careful of is this is 100 kids. They have done a remarkable job I think of drawing attention to this, speaking out, organizing in ways we haven't seen in the past. And I think nothing changes until everything changes. I can give you -- I can cite you chapter and verse of ways in which these shootings play out in the past in which the moment peters out. And maybe that will happen here, too. But maybe it won't. I think you always have to hold open the possibility that change is possible as it relates to this.
I think what is hard, David touched on this, in my opinion politically the most important thing -- people who support gun rights have a very dedicated history of voting on that issue. It's not everybody, but it's enough. People who want more what they would call common sense gun control measures, there's a sliver of people who vote on that issue alone. It is not enough for lawmakers to feel as though they will pay political pain and price for doing something like you saw in the Florida legislature yesterday, which is not being willing to debate the idea of an assault weapons ban which I can't even imagine passing in that chamber, but even debating it, because they're not afraid -- there's no consequence on that side. There is a consequence on the progun right side. And that to me is the inequality that you see politically which makes this harder.
CUOMO: Go ahead, David, give us a quick point and then I want to get back to the kids.
GREGORY: This is not just about presidential leadership. We've seen presidential leadership before on this issue. It can help, and maybe under President Trump he'll get something done on background checks, on access to guns if you're under 21. But that's not the only factor here.
CUOMO: And also, look, that's the point. What you say to a pollster is one thing. What you do at the polls is another. Gentlemen, we'll check back with you in a little bit.
Tonight to seize the momentum here, CNN is going to have a live town hall. You'll see students from Stoneman Douglas high school. You'll see lawmakers who are relevant in Florida, and they will discuss this demand for gun violence reform. What will it be like? We've got Kaylee Hartung live in Sunrise, Florida, with a preview.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, that passion, zeal and outrage that we've seen from some of the students, the survivors of Stoneman Douglas over the past week is coming here to the BB&T Center tonight. This arena just 15 miles from the high school will be the forum for this town hall discussion, a chance for the students of Stoneman Douglas, their parents, teachers and administrators to ask questions of elected officials and even a spokesperson from the NRA.
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend. Among those on stage, Congressman Ted Deutch, Democratic representative for this district. As we've heard this morning and as many students have told me, he's been a tremendous resource for many students over this past week.
Also, Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, a guy who the spotlight is on. These teenagers have not been shy about calling him out for the millions of dollars he's accepted from the NRA, and I wouldn't anticipate they hold back on him tonight.
Also, as I mentioned, national spokesperson from the NRA will be present as well. We should mention President Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott were both invited but declined to attend the event or appear via satellite.
This event tonight we anticipate being emotional and powerful.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Kaylee. That will be fascinating to watch this discussion with all of these different constituencies in one room. Thank you very much.
So, in just moments, these students you see on the right side of your screen, they will begin their march to Florida's state capitol to bring their message.
CUOMO: All right. Also, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Jared Kushner are reportedly in a feud over top secret access. The details -- the details, next.
[08:20:26] CAMEROTA: All right. We are staying on top of breaking news. These students survived the Florida school massacre. They are getting set to march to the state capitol in Florida. They are calling on their state lawmakers and the governor to make changes to gun laws.
You can see our own Dianne Gallagher. She's marching alongside the students. She joins us live.
What's their message, Dianne?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, we literally about two minutes ago started walking toward the capitol. I have senior Suzanna Barna with me right now. And, Suzanna, what's the message you guys are taking to the capitol?
SUZANNA BARNA, SURVIVED FLORIDA MASSACRE: We're taking that a tragedy like this can never happen again and we will never let it happen again.
GALLAGHER: What do you want from lawmakers? What do you want them to do to make it never happen again?
BARNA: Well, today, we're really just hoping they'll be receptive to what we're saying and listen to what we went through and just be sensitive to that. I mean we obviously want them to listen to our ideas on policy, but for now, if we could just get them to actually care about the matters we're talking about, that's probably the first step.
GALLAGHER: How did you feel yesterday when they voted not to even take up the discussion on that assault weapon ban?
BARNA: I mean, it's a minor setback. If this is going to be a long- term mission, which I really hope it is, that's just one thing. They could always propose another bill similar to that. We're working on small steps first. We'll see what happens.
GALLAGHER: Thank you so much, Suzanna.
You know, Alisyn, Chris, most of these students that I've talked to here have said they understand nothing is going to happen overnight. They recognize that this is not going to be something that they snap their fingers, talk to these lawmakers and suddenly everything changes.
And they seem to recognize this is a long haul affair. That they are hoping that many of them, especially the seniors and juniors, once they turn 18, they register to vote, that they will use their power of voting as well as their power of their voice.
So, again, marching to the capitol, Chris, Alisyn, I'm going to send it back to you.
CUOMO: All right. Dianne, thank you very much.
All right. We have breaking news for you. Reverend Billy Graham has died. Word is circulating right now. He was 99 years old, born in 1918. Of course, the name is a household name in America, one of our most famous ministers.
In fact, part of his congregation has been in Parkland, Florida, doing crisis management after the massacre there. He preached around the world speaking to presidents and world leaders. He had literally been a facet of spiritual life since the '50s in this country.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. He has been a spiritual adviser to all sorts of presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
So, joining us now, our reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza, and CNN political analyst David Gregory who, of course, has written a book on faith. And it's hard to underscore just how influential this man has been in our lives.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, not just in politics and, of course, in faith and popularizing faith as a televangelist, someone who did it after World War II in Los Angeles. He's a famous part of the Louis Zamperini story of unbroken who went to a Billy Graham revival and whose life was changed and became a born again Christian and stopped drinking.
So, it was Billy Graham who was one of the forerunners of the televangelist movement. His parents are raised as Calvinist Protestants. He joined the Southern Baptist Convention. He popularized faith and the evangelical movement like no one else had, and at the same time had this incredible political resonance, some of which was controversial.
He was close friends with Richard Nixon and had a blind spot for Richard Nixon and some of his anti-Semitism. But didn't shy away from being close to presidents, from speaking out about communism, from offering advice on matters of war and peace and more up to date, for a president I covered, George W. Bush, he even at an advanced age was incredibly influential in the lives of our leaders.
It was in conversation with Billy Graham that President Bush said he found a renewed relationship with God, became a born again Christian himself and set himself on a course that was so important in his own life. So, this is just a tremendous loss in the world of faith, in our national life, in our political life.
[08:25:07] Billy Graham was a titan of this country.
CUOMO: Chris, "TIME" magazine once referred to Billy Graham as the pope of the Protestant movement. For a long time, he was the cohesive point for the evangelical movement in this country. He was someone who favored non-denominational Christianity which was a new idea in the '50s and '60s.
People really stuck at their churches. Obviously, his parents were Calvinists. He started with the Baptist Church, but started to engender this idea that it's not about the organization, it's about the faith and how it is lived as a mission.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's right. And I would say I think David touched on this, but I think the influence of Billy Graham on mainstreaming, excuse me, evangelical thought into politics, particularly Republican politics, 1980s, 1990s, into the 2000s.
The evangelical movement as a political force has faded somewhat. The election of Donald Trump I think is in some ways a coda to that, a bookmark. But in the '70s, '80s, '90s, Billy Graham's influence and the evangelical movement's influence, particularly on social politics in the conservative movement, vast. I mean, literally almost impossible to overstate the ways in which he helped transform what sort of conservatism, what Republicanism, particularly on the social side meant and what kind of voters made up the Republican coalition for those years.
I do think we are -- I don't know if it's a one-time change due to Donald Trump, but we're in a change period from that. But for two- plus decades, that was the dominant -- or one of the dominant voices within the conservative movement.
CAMEROTA: Yes, and I think what you're teaching on and what David can build on is he believed in sort of the big tent philosophy. He insisted, even in the '50s that his revival meetings be integrated racially. I was interested to read that he bailed out Martin Luther King Jr. from jail after he was arrested for some of his administrations and then insisted on preaching together as well.
GREGORY: Right. And the non-denominational movement, the modern evangelical movement which went beyond the established denominations was then continues to be controversial but also incredibly popular because of how accessible Billy Graham was, modern day evangelist like Joel Osteen are incredible in their reach around the world. I've been to Joel Osteen's services. How incredibly diverse and huge his Sunday morning services are.
Billy Graham was really the forerunner of that, making it more acceptable, breaking down a lot of barriers, which also engendered criticism within evangelical circles and certainly does among modern evangelicals. There are a lot of enter-denominational fights.
But Billy Graham was really one of the first to break through all of that to reach a broader audience. And then to add, what Chris was referring to, this incredible political influence as kind of America's preacher, certainly the preacher to the most powerful figures in the country.
CUOMO: And what a run he had, also. I mean, to die at 99 years of age. He fought like crazy. I think it was in the '90s he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, some type of Parkinson's I think, that's when the son, the second came in. And he's still been going strong all this time.
So, finally lost him at 99. We'll talk more about him throughout the show.
Gentlemen, thank you of helping us put meat on the bones of a fabulous life that has just ended today. Billy Graham is now gone at the age of 99. He died at home with family.
CAMEROTA: Of course, we're also following the survivors of the Florida massacre. They have begun their march to the Florida state capitol, to bring their message directly to lawmakers. We'll have a live report and we will talk to the students, next.