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Some students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were turned away Wednesday from meetings with political representatives at the state Capitol.
“Appointment only,” the students were told at Senate President Joe Negron’s office. His spokeswoman, Katie Betta, later explained that the senator was presiding over the Senate when the five boys came by. Negron also met separately with a larger group of students earlier Wednesday, she said.
The students who sought a separate meeting in his office were holding signs saying, “Arms are for hugging,” “Parkland Strong” and “No NRA Money.”
The group of teenagers said they have been visiting offices at the Capitol hoping to speak with political leaders and representatives. But they’ve been turned away by about six legislators, including the aide to Negron, and were becoming frustrated by the many closed doors.
“We’ve been heard by other people, but the people here who make the laws aren’t really listening,” said Agu Felman, 16, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people in a mass shooting February 14.
“Innocent kids are dying,” said 15-year-old Samuel Muster, a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. “It’s an atrocity. It shouldn’t be happening.”
About 100 students who survived last week’s massacre boarded buses and traveled from the Fort Lauderdale area to Tallahassee on Tuesday to push for changes they say could help prevent the next school shooting.
“If you’re not with us, you’re against us, and you’re against saving the lives of innocent children,” Chris Grady, a 19-year-old student, said Tuesday. “And we’re going to be voting you out.”
Negron visited victims in the hospital and met with Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie last week, Betta said. He also attended the funeral for 15-year-old Peter Wang on Tuesday. The Parkland victims are important to him, she said.
During the students’ visit Wednesday, Negron and his Senate counterparts worked to welcome the students, she added.
He made rooms available for them to meet with senators, reserved 150 seats in the gallery so they could attend a Senate session, and presided over a tribute to the shooting victims from the Senate floor, she said.
“He enjoys meeting with students, and he’s very passionate about the role of students in the legislative process,” Betta said.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that Negron did meet with a separate group of students earlier in the day and to add new reporting about some of Negron’s other efforts regarding the Parkland students’ visit.
CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin wrote and reported from Tallahassee, and Eric Levenson wrote from New York.