Survivors of the mass shooting at Majory Stoneman High School in Florida are leading what's considered an unprecedented youth mobilization against gun violence in the US
Miami (AFP) - Young survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting have impressed the world with their eloquence as they grab the banner of the fight to end gun violence in America.
Cameron Kasky started the slogan #NeverAgain, David Hogg is now a target of an online smear campaign and Emma Gonzalez moved many in the country with her cry: "Shame on you!"
Who are the fresh-faced leaders of the #NeverAgain campaign to demand stricter gun laws, an issue that sharply divides American society?
- Cameron Kasky -
The 17-year-old has been described by the New Yorker as a "theater kid" and calls himself the "class clown."
On February 14, the day of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Kasky addressed pro-gun advocates with a scathing Facebook post: "I'm safe... Thank you to all the second amendment warriors who protected me."
Two days after the massacre that left 17 dead at his school, Kasky created the hashtag #NeverAgain, urging his supporters to make it go viral, which it did.
Perhaps his most high-profile moment came on Wednesday, when he confronted US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida at a CNN "town hall" event broadcast on prime time.
Appearing relaxed and confident, the teen confronted the one-time presidential candidate, who has received funding from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) pro-gun lobby: "Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?"
- Emma Gonzalez -
"Shame on you!" the 18-year-old declared at an anti-gun rally on February 16th, berating US President Donald Trump and other politicians who accept money from the NRA.
Her fiery speech captured national attention and spurred a nascent movement bringing together student survivors, parents, teachers and other activists.
Gonzalez, whose family has roots in Cuba and is easily recognizable with her shaved head, had written the speech just hours before and her only previous activism was participating in last year's "March for Science."
She and her cohorts called for a "March for Our Lives" in Washington on March 24, saying: "You're either with us, or against us at this point."
The march has since raised at least $2 million in funding from Hollywood A-listers including George Clooney and his human rights lawyer wife Amal, talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, director Steven Spielberg and his actress wife Kate Capshaw, and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
- David Hogg -
The 17-year-old aspiring journalist took refuge in a closet during the school massacre. Despite the terrifying circumstances, his instinct led him to film interviews with his fellow students while in hiding. The video went viral.
Hogg was recruited by Kasky to help lead the #NeverAgain movement.
But his experience in recent days lays bare the politicization of the issue. Hogg's father is a retired FBI agent and right-wing conspiracy theorists believe the agency is behind a shadowy campaign to bring down Trump.
The teen has been attacked and harassed online, and even accused of being a "crisis actor" paid to travel to tragedies to propagate liberal viewpoints.
"I am not a crisis actor," Hogg said. "I'm someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that. I'm not acting on anybody's behalf."
- Delaney Tarr -
The 17-year-old was among hundreds of Florida students who descended on the state legislature this week to demand gun control laws.
"We've had enough of thoughts and prayers," she said. "We are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action."
She is among a generation of young Americans who grew up in an era of school shootings, and always carries around her car keys, with the idea that she could hunker down inside the vehicle in such a situation.
When it actually happened, she ended up hiding with her classmates in a closet.