Return to Transcripts main page


Marches Take Place Across the U.S. Calling for Stricter Gun Control Legislation; Students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Gather to March on Washington D.C.; Survivors of Mass Shootings Give Speeches to Crowds Gathered at Marches. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired March 24, 2018 - 10:00   ET



[10:00:18] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, from Washington D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Right now from coast to coast people of all ages are pouring into the streets walking side by side, holding signs, chanting, singing, and demanding stricter gun laws. The leading voices in this movement, the high school survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre in Parkland, Florida. They planned the March for Our Lives, that's what it's being called, to honor the 17 classmates and faculty members killed by an armed former student just last month.

The survivors have one very loud, very clear message on gun violence -- never again. Their frustrations gaining national momentum and driving the conversation on the polarizing gun control debate. Those students are leading the march on Washington right now, but they don't stand alone. Star power is backing them up here in the nation's capital. Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lin-Manuel Miranda are just a few of the names taking part in the event today. And you're looking at the main stage right on Pennsylvania Avenue, hundreds of marches in fact are scheduled across the country today.

CNN has team coverage with reporters spread out across the country. CNN's Dianne Gallagher is with a group of students from Parkland, Florida, right here in the nation's capital. Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, we're not too far from where you are, about a mile, and that's because this group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumni, teachers, students, parents, they're about to be leaving this breakfast they had this morning. And I'm going to see if I get Don to can pan the room. They're waiting. They're going to be marching roughly that mile to the area together as a show of force and solidarity. They want people to know that MSD showed up, they came. They as a family are here supporting what these students are doing, supporting the idea of safer schools. Some of them are proponents of gun control. Others are focused on mental health.

We're seeing a bit of diversity of ideas within this room. And most of these, again, MSD people here. So there should be any time now coming up these escalators -- we can see they are starting to come at this point. They're passing out lots of buttons and pens. There are plenty of signs, Fredricka.

And again, this is something that this entire community kind of got involved in. When this happened at the school, it's a close-knit area, Coral Springs, Parkland, Florida. They banded together. We have alumni from the '90s, the 2000s, from just a few years ago. I talked to one alumni who went to UCF and she said that she rode a bus all night. She got in Washington D.C. at 6:00 a.m. just so she could be here and march with those students. As they get up here, we're going to start going with them, Fredricka, walking down to where you are so we can be there as they support their fellow students on stage. Again, it looks like we're about to leave now, so I'm going to send it back to you so we can get out the door.

WHITFIELD: Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. As so many kids from Parkland, Florida, assemble there before they make their way to this area on Pennsylvania Avenue just in the shadow of the U.S. capitol. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Parkland, Florida, where it all began, where the mourning continues for the 17 killed, and the focus is sharpening there. Kaylee?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the program here just beginning in very enthusiastic fashion. You can hear the chants behind me I'm sure. But you make a good point. As one parent just reminded me, this community is still grieving. But as that parent of a Stoneman Douglas student told me, she's filled with pride to see her daughter turn that grief into passion. This crowd gathering behind me, evidence of the impact that the passion of the Stoneman Douglas students have had on so many.

We've seen these pictures of hundreds of Stoneman Douglas students making the trip to D.C. to make their voices heard. But remember, Stoneman Douglas is a high school of about 3,300 kids, so many of them wanted to be here. As one student organizer told me, this was where she felt she need to be today, not in D.C. but here in other home community to make their voice heard.

She also said it's absolutely incredible for them to see the support that they have generated, as you see behind me here, but also across the country. Now, here where we are in Pine Trails Park, this park where these kids grew up in this community playing soccer, having sports banquets and award ceremonies here, this park then became the site of the memorial where people came to pay their respects to the 17 victims and shed tears for that loss of life. But now today this park takes on a new meaning for the change that they hope to see. This march will leave Pine Trails Park in about two hours. They will march towards the high school.

[10:05:09] They're then told to march in silence past the high school and to keep marching as this signal, sign of the determination that they want to keep this conversation moving forward. Fred, this program just about to get under way with a host of speakers. We anticipate it to be a very powerful and moving morning here in the Parkland area.

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much, out of Parkland, Florida. You see the crowds there. There are crowds developing in New York City as well, and that's where

we find our Jason Carroll in the thick of it. Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me tell you, there are so many people who are already here and the event hasn't even officially started yet. We're here at 61st street. Let me show you what's happening up here. People are standing shoulder to shoulder, going up Central Park West all the way up to 72nd street, keeping them in pens along the way.

Already I've spoken to a number of survivors here, people from Sandy Hook, a librarian who sheltered 19 fourth graders in place in a library there. I also spoke to a survivor from Las Vegas who was here as well. And in talking to a number of the people here who are about to take the stage very soon, Fredricka, they've been talking about what they want to see going forward. As you know, the state of New York has some of the toughest gun legislation in the country. That was passed after Sandy Hook. And when I spoke to one of the survivors here today, I asked her, I said what is it specifically that you're going to be looking for like so many people here who are coming out to protest, to stand their ground? She said we're looking for politicians to listen to the people and the people will be speaking today. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

Let's talk more about the scope of this march and the mission and what might be accomplished. David Swerdlick is a CNN political commentator and also special editor for the "Washington Post." David, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So it's an extraordinary sight because you've got a lot of young people here from all over the country and you have them with their parents. This is a family event. Their objective is to get the attention of lawmakers here in the shadow of the U.S. capitol. Is this likely to be effective?

SWERDLICK: I think it's the start of something at least. You know, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, you've seen a march here today that's led -- yes, many adults are here, but it's led and inspired by students in part because I think a lot of students saw with their own eyes for the first time just how slowly the wheels of government turn when they want a problem addressed, and this is their response to it, Fred.

We're getting to that point in the year where Congress is about done doing things and they start turning toward campaigning for reelection in the fall. Will this spur them to kind of come back here, act, take action on some of the things the students are demanding, like maybe reinstating the assault weapons ban, like perhaps raising the federal age limit to 21 for purchasing all firearms. It's unclear, but I think this is how they're going to try and get the attention of their representatives. They're looking at this and saying, hey, we're kids, we think something should be done, why aren't adults getting things done.

WHITFIELD: I talked to a lot of kids and their families who have descended here on Washington D.C., and so many of them have expressed they are so disappointed that there hasn't been great change on a national front. And then on the eve of this march, the White House makes an announcement that the Trump administration will have a new rule or at least taking a step toward banning bump stocks. And that was a plea being made after the Vegas shooting. On the eve of this march that the White House would say it is making a step towards that, is that strictly to appease this audience?

SWERDLICK: So I think President Trump is feeling his way, trying to figure out how he can look like he's on the right side of this issue without abandoning or getting crossways with one of his core constituencies, which is the NRA. He enthusiastically accepted their endorsement when he ran for president. In recent weeks he's had more than one closed-door meeting with leaders of the NRA, and he can't afford to lose that core constituency.

At the same time, President Trump realizes that there's a lot of agitation, a lot of concern in the country for doing something about gun violence in the country, and people are looking at this and saying after Sandy Hook, after Parkland, after Las Vegas, why won't government act? President Trump's not a traditional conservative, so I don't think he's driven by an ideological core on this issue as much as he wants to try and keep his base with him, at the same time appeal to a broader audience.

[10:00:10] WHITFIELD: There are one-issue voters out there, and many of them here whom I've spoken with say this gun control, stricter gun laws issue is the one issue for them. How might it impact midterm elections? Are Democrats and Republicans particularly conscientious that the one-issue voter could make a difference in midterm?

SWERDLICK: You're going to have I think one-issue voters on both sides, Fred. You're going to have folks who have traditionally supported strong gun rights who are going to look at what's happening here and say I'm going to go out there and vote as I've done in the past to try and elect people who don't want to change existing gun laws.

On the other hand, you've got a lot of teenagers out here today who might be voting for the first time in their lives this November, turning 18 this year, and saying that, look, if legislators aren't going to do something, I'm going to vote for different legislators who might take action on this.

Again, if you go back to what the president's doing, he said yesterday, as you said, that he wants to ban bump stocks, but folks out here today are saying we want you to do more. The Florida -- the Parkland kids were able to get their legislature in Florida to pass a law that banned bump stocks. It didn't go that much further to doing some of the other things they wanted, so I think they're going to continue to pressure legislators to do more over the course of this year in advance of this election. WHITFIELD: And quickly, your impressions as you look around, as

people are gathering, the official march begins, or the rally begins at noon, but already hundreds of thousands appear to be here.

SWERDLICK: Yes, a critical mass is gathering. And the fact that it's so chilly out here and people are still out here sort of excited and ready to form up here and show their support for this issue signals that this is a movement that's probably not going anywhere any time soon.

WHITFIELD: Maybe not hundreds of thousands. Maybe tens of thousands.

SWERDLICK: Yes. It's hard for me to see out here and it is early. It's cold but it's a nice day. I think you're going to see a lot of people out here.

WHITFIELD: They'll leave here near the U.S. Capitol Hill and then they'll march towards the White House later on. David Swerdlick, thank you so much.

Some of the music now beginning here. We've met so many families who have made the trip here by plane, train, car. The Bishop family from Parkland, Florida, says it's their mission to advocate legislation in Florida and across the country to ensure both the right to bear arms and the right to feel safe.


WHITFIELD: Daniel and Julia, you were both at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school at the time of the shooting but you were in separate buildings. And mom, Susan, you were at a nearby Walmart shopping for last-minute Valentine's gifts for the entire family. And now more than 30 days later you're here in D.C. for this march for life. So how has all of this changed, impacted the family?

SUSAN BISHOP, MOTHER OR PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVORS: This incident has blown a grenade size hole inside of our town, and we're all coping with it and trying to come together and use this to come together to make change and to make sure that no community ever has to go through what we've had to go through.

WHITFIELD: Your mom said something really powerful there, which is coping and changing. How do you prioritize those things for you? I mean, you were in your school. You've lost your classmates. You have to both cope and now you're on a mission to change. How are you doing that?

JULIA BISHOP, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVORS: Well, I think that we know that our classmates that did lose their lives, they would want us to be activists. We did have the time shortly after to grieve and to be upset, and we still carry that with us every day. I always think about my classmate, Carmen, every single day. But I know that when I'm fighting for her I'm making a difference.

DANIEL BISHOP, PARKLAND SHOOTING SURVIVORS: It's stressful. I'm not going to lie. It's been a lot to handle as a student, as a teenager, but I think that coping and change come together, that they're hand in hand.

WHITFIELD: A week after that shooting -- and Julia, you were on a bus to Tallahassee and you had a message for lawmakers.

JULIA BISHOP: I'm going to be speaking to these legislators. I don't care what political party they come from.

There was legislation passed in the state of Florida. We did end up having the age limit raised to 21, and also there's going to be a three-day waiting period.

DANIEL BISHOP: Even though I went to Tallahassee and talked to legislators and tried to get my points across, I don't have a vote. So I think that it's really important for everyone who can vote, 18, 19, 20, 21-year-olds, everyone to go out and just try to influence the people around them.

WHITFIELD: The U.S. capitol building, this is the seat of power. And mom, Susan, when you look at this building knowing what it represents, do you see it differently after the shooting claiming 17 lives?

SUSAN BISHOP: I want these lawmakers who are representing us to understand that we have to make the changes that need to be made to keep the people in this country safe.

[10:15:09] JULIA BISHOP: I'm honestly worried that this will just blow over as every other mass shooting has. In Vegas, there were almost 60 people killed, and we were sad for a week and we sent our thoughts and prayers, and no one did anything about it.

WHITFIELD: Daniel, what's the goal for this march?

DANIEL BISHOP: I think that we have something real here. This is real. And when we were just another high school, we barely even noticed when the Senate rejects gun control. We barely even noticed. I mean, now when things get passed, when things don't get passed, the whole community knows.


WHITFIELD: The Bishop family in huge company here in the nation's capital and across the country because nationwide gun control rallies and protests are growing by the second. Take a look at live pictures right now in Miami, Florida, where crowds are taking over the streets there. A similar scene unfolding in Philadelphia. We have reporters fanned out across the country as well. Stay with us. We'll take you across the country.


[10:20:22] WHITFIELD: Welcome back to the nation's capital where gatherings are under way for the so-called March for Our Lives. Thousands of people have descended. People are coming from all over the country here to Washington D.C., and they're also dotting the map to New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I want to go to CNN's Dianne Gallagher who has been with students who

have been assembling out of Parkland, Florida, but they're here in the nation's capital about to make their way. And it looks like you did, since the last time we spoke, now in the crowd there. And the folks will gather and they will eventually span a nine-block area from the U.S. capitol all the way to the White House. What's the message, what are you finding from kids there and their families?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Fredricka, we actually had to stop because the rest of the group needs to catch up. We're talking 1,300, 1,400 people with this group alone. MSD students and teachers and parents and alumni. I have Tanzil Philip with me. Tanzil is a sophomore. Tanzil, what do you guys expect out of today? Do you feel like you're going to gain progress?


GALLAGHER: You guys have been planning this. I've met you on the bus in Tallahassee. You guys did make change in Florida. It's going to be tougher, though, nationally. How do you guys plan to go about that beyond this march?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just going to keep going. We have tons of support here, about 500,000 people showed up. So as long as we have people supporting us.

GALLAGHER: This is something right now, and of course, Fredricka, I want to apologize because we are walking, my photographer is walking backwards in a large sea of people right now, but this is something that you guys are still experiencing this change. Everybody sees your activism, but things have changed at your school since the shooting, not just emotionally but physically. You guys have a lot of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you ask the question again?

GALLAGHER: No worries. Sorry, again very loud out here, Fredricka. What's it like still attending Stoneman Douglas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's crazy, but the vibe is positive because we're making change. A lot of things have happened this week alone. And all of us are scared to go back to school. This is what we have to do.

GALLAGHER: How do you feel being here with all of these people in the capitol?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels empowering. Martin Luther King walked down these same streets as we are right now. It's crazy that we're doing the same thing that they did. We saw how that turned out. So we're hoping we get the same result.

GALLAGHER: Do you feel like this is similar to the civil rights movement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Civil rights was started by teenagers, and here we are. GALLAGHER: And jus real quick, Tanzil, I so appreciate you walking

and doing this with us, but talk to me a little bit about what you guys want to see change? Change is very broad. What do you want to actually see change?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the simplest terms, gun control. We want bans on assault rifles. No civilian should have them. Mental illness is another big topic. We need universal background checks. We need all of that. We don't want guns in our school, we don't want guns around us.

GALLAGHER: Thank you so much, Tanzil Philip, again, a sophomore marching from Stoneman Douglas. He's been active in this movement the whole time. We want to Tallahassee together on a bus. You can hear the chants they're doing, "Who are we? MSD. What are we? MSD strong." This is something that -- I'm trying to maneuver here. I do apologize right now. But this is something that they put together in just six weeks, less than six weeks, five and a half weeks since that shooting on Valentine's Day.

And they had started a little bit slow. It has emerged into something to where they got support from nearly 800 marches around the country, the world. And it's something that even the students themselves were telling me that they were expecting it to blow up like this.

I want you to see, I'm going to ask Don to pan and see this crowd coming along. These are the students, the alumni, the teachers, the parents from Parkland, Florida. They're here. They came strong. They came on planes, buses. Some of them drove up themselves. There were teachers who basically brought up the students that they couldn't get on the plane. Some of them came Wednesday, Thursday.

I talked to a student who came overnight on a bus. The school paid for them to come up here, University of Central Florida. She was an alumni. She felt like she needed to be here. But this is something that they're a close-knit alumni society.

And really the students have said that they understand that because they're a privileged school, they say, we come from an affluent area, we have a good education, that they were able to harness that education and try and capture the attention of the planet when it comes to gun control, mental health, and school safety. And we should see that reflected in the program today. They've taken other students, other young people from different communities, and they're going to have them speak as well, Fredricka, because they want to make sure that this is a countrywide event, not just a Parkland, Florida event. That's where it started, but they do say they want to see this go further and they want this to be countrywide.

[14:25:14] So the diversity of faces that are expected in the crowd itself may not exactly reflect what Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school looks like, and they say that's what they want. They want to make this something that everybody in the country is a part of, not just those from Parkland, Florida. Again, we're trying to make our way up to the stage where all this is going to happen. We're slowly moving through, but so far the crowd as large as it is has opened up and allowed these MSD alumni and students to come through so they can get there and cheer on their classmates.

WHITFIELD: Dianne Gallagher with the students who are hoping they are power in numbers making their way to the main stage which is just behind me, which is where you're hearing all of that music. And they're holding signs, "Books, not bullets," "Not one more." We're seeing similar images in Boston, and that's where our senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is, where people are beginning to assemble there to join in this movement. Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, big crowds growing as we get closer and closer to this march. It's supposed to kick off in just around 20 minutes' time.

We are in the Roxbury section of Boston at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, and it's really no mistake that we are starting at a high school today. The symbolism is something that everyone here wants people to understand, that it is about the students, it is about the young people here. You can see this sea of young people. The crowd really dominated by them and not by adults, all holding up all sorts of signs.

And the focus today is these students. It is not the elected politicians. It is not the older members of society. In fact, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was just here. She met privately with a number of students from Boston.

We should note that during the rally that is going to follow this march, there are no older -- there are no adults speaking except for some of the teachers. Most of the speakers will be students. There will be some teachers. And so Senator Warren met privately with some students in a nearby cafe. I actually spoke with her and asked her whether she thought that this was a moment, whether something will come out of this. She said that she was inspired by these young students, and that some of her Republican colleagues in the Senate will not be able to turn away from these images and turn away from these voices.

Now, in terms of what do we expect to happen over the course the day, in a couple of minutes, about 20 minutes, as I mentioned, this march is going to start going from this high school. They'll walk around two miles to Boston Common, and then once they arrive at Boston Common we expect the rally and the speeches to get under way.

WHITFIELD: And Alex, you spoke with Senator Elizabeth Warren. What's her message?

MARQUARDT: Her message today is that you can't ignore these young people. She wanted to not just be -- she did not want to be a part of this march. We will not in fact see her marching today. She's headed out to Springfield, Massachusetts, to join the march out there. But she wanted to come here and give them encouragement to show that they are not alone, to show that their voices matter, and that she will carry their message back to Capitol Hill to try to transform that into some sort of gun legislation.

As you know, Senator Warren has been very vocal in terms of trying to get gun control legislation pushed forward, and she says -- she believes that these student voices will make a difference, that this point moment after the Parkland school shooting is different than past shootings.


MARQUARDT: What has struck you most about these students and what they have organized today, not just here in Boston but all across the country?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: It's powerful they are, that they have found their voices. They have figured out how to organize and strengthen their voices. They are determined and they are going to make change in this country.

Can you imagine being 16 years old today and you're the shooting generation, right? The generation that has grown up with one school shooting after another, that has grown up with losing someone in your high school, someone in your neighborhood, one here, one there. We can't do that to our young people. That's not the job of government. The job of government is to protect our people.


MARQUARDT: We should note that among that small table of students, there were really just a dozen of them speaking with Senator Warren. There were three young women from Parkland, Florida, including two from Stoneman Douglas. One of them is still a senior there, she's graduating later this year. They told us that they are not just angry about what has happened but they are inspired about what can happen.

[10:30:00] WHITFIELD: Alex Marquardt, thank you so much from Boston.

Much more on our breaking news ahead. Protests, rallies growing dramatically across the country starting with from here in the nation's capital. You see the map across the globe here, Parkland, Florida, New York, Washington, Minneapolis among the more than 800 rallies taking place globally. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're back at the nation's capital, and we're just a few feet away from the main stage of this march today.

[10:35:02] As we watch the gatherings taking place from coast to coast to rally against gun violence and demand stricter gun laws, I'm here in the nation's capital where the so-called March for Our Lives will officially start in just a little bit. Occasionally you will hear the loud speakers, you will hear the music. It is energetic. It really is parallel to the spirit of these young people who have come out in very big numbers.

This march here will span at least nine blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S. capitol to the White House. The survivors of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting are leading the march in honor of the 17 victims killed during a mass shooting in their school last month. The White House just releasing a statement on these demonstrations

saying, quote, "We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their first amendment rights today. Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president's which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and Stop School Violence Acts and sign them into law. Additionally, on Friday the Department of Justice issued the rule to ban bump stocks, following through on the president's commitment to ban devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns." That statement coming from the White House at this hour.

And joining me right now, taking an incredible view of everything here, someone who was very close to the former president, President Barack Obama, former senior adviser to the president, Valerie Jarrett with me now. You took notice of a number of the signs that were here that caught your eye from these kids. "Books, not bullets." "Not one more." And the one that really caught your eye was, "Arms are for hugging."


WHITFIELD: They are indeed. And what is it like to be here to see all of these young people who are galvanized, who are energized, and they are feeling very empowered.

JARRETT: It's extraordinary. It's extraordinary. This is how change has always happened in our country where a few people excite the many, where people feel that it's in their vested interest to get involved and to end gun violence now. We're the only developed country in the world that has this kind of violence.

And there are steps that we can take to end it, and I think their frustration and the frustration of so many people who I met over the course of the eight years at memorial service after memorial service, from Sandy Hook to my own backyard in Chicago, needless deaths that could be avoided. And if we can just save one child, isn't that worth it? And I think what we see here is young people saying, we're not asking for permission. We're not intimidated by the NRA. We are empowered to ensure that we change our country. And they're doing it.

WHITFIELD: I saw one sign from a young kid who said we're not afraid of the NRA, why is Congress?

JARRETT: Why is congress? It's a very good question. I think our government is only as good as we, the people, insist that it be. We, the people, are speaking today not just in D.C., but, as you said, all around our country. I think our elected officials are going to have to wake up and take action in Congress and in state houses all across the country.

WHITFIELD: You were in the White House with President Obama when Sandy Hook happened.

JARRETT: I sure was. Worst day in eight years.

WHITFIELD: And the president and everyone thought that after a tragedy like Sandy Hook something would happen.

JARRETT: I know, I know.

WHITFIELD: And there wasn't enough on a national scale, and now you've got young people here who are saying they are of the mass shooting generation.

JARRETT: Can you imagine going to school and having to have drills for, you know, being aware when there's an active shooter? That's what we want our children to grow up experiencing? Why? So people could have weapons and not go through background checks? So that we have assault weapons with these huge magazines that can shoot so many people at one time? Is that really worth it?

WHITFIELD: Is this the moment, is this the turning point?

JARRETT: I think so, and it's a moment turning into a movement. And these young people appreciate, one of them said yesterday this is the beginning of a marathon. They recognize this isn't going to be easy, it's going to take some time, but they have the power to press. And I think social media adds a whole new dimension to movements today.

They're not dependent on the press to cover them. They are making the press themselves and they're driving the attention. And that's why you're seeing all across our country and all across the world people are listening to these young people. And it also shows you --

WHITFIELD: And that's what they're hoping. And that's what they're hoping.

JARRETT: And they're smart. They're fearless. They are articulate. And they understand that this isn't just about what's happening in their school, in their affluent community. They went to Chicago and they met with people there who experience gun violence every single day. It may not be a mass shooting. They have unified and built a big tent, an inclusive tent.

WHITFIELD: And what is your point of view on the Trump administration on the eve of this march and rally, a decision was announced by the Trump administration on steps toward ending bump stocks?

[10:40:07] And then the president would tweet yesterday that his administration will ban bump stock devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machines, and then blaming former president Barack Obama for allowing them in the first place, what is your response to that as a senior adviser working in the Obama administration White House for eight years?

JARRETT: Look, we tried mightily to get Congress to pass sensible background checks. We tried mightily and to get Congress to recognize their responsibility to close the loopholes. No one should be able to buy a weapon of mass destruction the way you can now on the Internet without going through a background check.

We tried to get Congress to change the law that says that the CDC can't even do research to figure out what causes gun violence and what are the appropriate steps we should take. So we did what we could and the president signed multiple executive orders trying to tighten up what we could do within the administration.

But this piece that they did on the bump stocks is one step of many that needs to be taken. And I think until the NRA stops controlling the purse strings, until people in Congress recognize that they are not beholden to special interests, they're beholding to the people, that's when we're going to see real change happen. So we did what we could do by executive action. We challenged Congress to do more, and now they're going to be forced to act, I believe.

WHITFIELD: Former senior adviser to the Obama administration, Valerie Jarrett, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for stopping here, appreciate it.

JARRETT: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: And now let's go to Parkland, Florida, where all of this tragically began, 17 killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school. And now at Parkland today students have galvanized there. They have a message. Let's listen in to what they have to say.


ADAM BUCHWALD, STUDENT MARJORIE STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Sadly, we will be repeating this and it could be easily be in your city or your town. This stops now!


BUCHWALD: Secondly, the finish line at the end of the march here today in Parkland and all the marches around the country is our beginning line. We are just getting started!


BUCHWALD: I promise many of my classmates who are in Washington D.C. right now and I are not going away or giving up. We are determined, we are committed to force change.


BUCHWALD: We are starting to see momentum but we know we have a long way to go. It is now our mission in life, not just a quick media show that will fizzle out with time.

And most importantly, I promise all the victims' families that we will never ever forget their loved ones and we will continually -- continue to relentlessly work for all children's safety in their honor and loving memory.


BUCHWALD: We cannot and will not be influenced by money and demand the same from our elected officials!


BUCHWALD: We are watching you closely now, and we now have a voice, and influence in elections.

Hopefully you've noticed this theme around promises. After the tragedy in Parkland, my best friend, Zach Hibshman, and I wanted to make a difference and get involved. We were angry and could not believe there was another tragedy. It was incomprehensible to us that after all these previous shootings and senseless deaths at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, and so many others that it happened again, let alone that it happened in our high school. How is it possible that so many innocent lives --

WHITFIELD: Live pictures out of Parkland, Florida, and now Minneapolis as well. And you hear the sounds behind me here in the nation's capital where gatherings are taking place across the country. We'll have much more after this.


[10:49:12] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in the nation's capital. And you see behind me and across the country people have gathered in major cities across the country from Boston, Minneapolis, Parkland, Florida, and Houston. And they're all galvanized and empowered for today's so-called March for Our Lives. Here in the nation's capital people are gathering just behind me. It's a major staging ground and then they'll make their way from the U.S. capitol nine blocks all the way to the White House. That takes place in just about an hour from now.

But for now, the crowds are gathering. People have come by plane, they've come by train, car. They've gotten here any way they can. And in the thick of it all is our own CNN's Ed Lavandera who has met up with a number of students, many who are accompanied by their parents. Families are here. This is an incredible affair for so many who do indeed feel empowered, Ed.

[10:50:12] ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fredricka. Here in the crowd we're with a unique group of people. It's a fascinating group of survivors and relatives of people who have died in some of the most high profile mass shootings across the country, Aurora theatre shooting, the Gabby Giffords shooting in Tucson, the town center mall shooting in Oregon, Las Vegas, Pulse. This is a group of them, just partially. They've come here to be together on this day. They share this horrific experience. This is Tom and Karen. Tom, why did you need to be here today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's got to stop. When do we stop killing our kids? I mean, my son gave his life so that another person could live. Can't we just -- it's got to become rational.

LAVANDERA: Your son died --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He died at the Aurora theatre shooting.

LAVANDERA: You're here with -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife.

LAVANDERA: The common theme you guys all share is horrific --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all lost -- this young lady here had to take a gun away from the person shooting Gabby Giffords. Why does she have to do that? That doesn't make sense, not in this country. I have to get a license to drive a car but I can be 16 and go buy an automatic weapon. It doesn't make any sense. It really doesn't.

LAVANDERA: After the ordeal that your family has gone through, if you decided to just kind of shelter in your house and just be quiet and reflect, but you've chosen to be an activist, to speak out. Why did you make that choice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you let other people -- losing your first born son doesn't go away. It's not like it's ever going to get better. You get better at carrying it. But every morning I wake up and I only want to use the word I think, and I think he's dead, why is he dead? We have a picture of him on the back here, and what's bothering me all day is that that's him five and a half years ago. He wouldn't look like that. He would be 30 now. He would have kids. All that was taken away from a lot of people in this crowd. When does money stop being more important than lives? Because the constitution starts with everyone has the right to life. It's not an amendment.

LAVANDERA: We're going to keep hanging out with them throughout the day. It's interesting they share this incredibly horrific bond, but in many ways they say they've been fighting this fight for quite some time and that they feel much more inspired by what these students from Parkland and across the country have been doing, and some of what we've heard from them here over the last day or so. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Ed Lavandera in the thick of it all, thank you so much.

There are folks who have come from all over the country. And in fact, it's not just in the United States but globally there are more than 800 rallies all recognizing the tragedy that took place in Parkland, Florida where it all began just on February 14, a month ago, and now hundreds, thousands are gathering across the globe, all committing to making it safer in schools, in movie theaters, on the city streets, everywhere.

We'll be right back with our live coverage of the March of Our Lives.


[10:57:57] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. It's the day of March for Our Lives across the country, here in the nation's capital and beyond. People are also gathering in Boston, Massachusetts. That's where we find senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, this is growing very quickly. It is a loud and energetic march that has just gotten under way. We should not that among the anti-gun chants we're also hearing black lives matter chants, and that's because the students want to highlight that this isn't just about school shootings. This is about gun violence in general.

We should also say this is not just students from Boston. There are a number of young women in the front row who are actually from Parkland, Florida. People are coming from all around the country as far as Florida and Maine to join in this march, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Alex Marquardt, we'll check back with you. And that is the scene really across the country. Here in the nation's capitals is the primary gathering point here right behind me. The rally gets under way at noon, and then over a three-hour span people will be making their way from the U.S. capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. We'll have much more right after this.