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David Hogg leads Parkland Publix Protest

It was 4:30am when Manuel Oliver, activist, artist, and father to Douglas shooting victim Joaquin Oliver, started to outline 17 bodies, in multiple parking spots, in the parking lot of the Publix where his son bought flowers for his girlfriend, the night before his death. Organized by David Hogg, with help from Douglas student Diego Pfeiffer and fellow activist Michael Rajner. They all took turns using chalk to represent the death of the 17 who lost their lives on Valentine's Day. 

Publix came under attack after it was reported that they had donated $670,000 over a 3 year period to Adam Putnam, a self proclaimed NRA sellout. 

After the rain, David made the decision to stick around and redo each outline. Calling it symbolism for how Americans quickly forget victims of gun violence, as the rain washed each of them away, like the tears we shed after news of yet another school shooting. Eventually around 9:30am Publix called in a cleaning crew to dismantle the art instillation.

But one of the most impactful moments was when a car sped in, and a man jumped out and walked over without even shutting his car door, demanding to speak to someone about the instillation he just saw on the morning news. I have to admit that it made me pause, almost freeze, I had no idea how this was going to play out, and was incredibly alarmed. I took a few seconds to devise a plan if this went south, and I immediately looked for David, because even if i'm working, my instinct will always be to protect these kids first. But without even hesitating, I watched David already making his way over to him, waving, saying "me, you can talk to me." The two spent a good 20 minutes respectfully talking with one another. Expressing feelings, and discussing facts. It was the ideal outcome. The kind we've been hoping to see way more of. The kind that David is continuously requesting from those who think and feel differently than him. For him this is what America is all about. 

The rest of the day was spent preparing for the 4pm die-in that was scheduled to take place at the same Publix, including other surrounding ones. Signs were made, and plans were put in place. As the set time approached, Publix sent out a press release just minutes before, stating “At Publix, we respect the students and the members or the community who have chosen to express their voices on these issues. We regret that our contributions have led to a divide in our community. We did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate. At the same time, we remain committed to maintaining a welcoming shopping environment for our customers. We would never knowingly disappoint our customers or the communities we serve. As a result, we decided earlier this week to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we reevaluate our giving processes.” 

Yet the students felt as if the statement was not good enough, it was the same statement they had made prior that week. Reevaluating does not mean ending. And that is what they were demanding out of this.

Upon entering the store, the group of students and supporters were immediately met by counter protesters who had been waiting for their arrival, yelling Trump and NRA. Grown elderly men were calling 18 year old David Hogg a prick, while a young child stood over them chanting Trumps name while filming the whole thing. It was wildly intense, and a little bit scary. But the students held their ground for the full intended 12 minutes or 720 seconds. Which represented the number of school shootings that have taken place in our country to date.

I honestly hadn't experienced division like this since I documented the Inauguration of Donald Trump. Sometimes you forget how bad it actually is. At one point while exiting, me and a few students were barricaded in by a man pushing his shopping cart into us, refusing to move. I got word that it also happened to multiple people leaving from other directions. 

Following the protest, David and supporters achieved great success, when Publix declared it would suspend its political giving.

Emilee McGovern
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