The prominent gun control movement founded by survivors of the 2018 Parkland high school shooting in Florida has splintered after one member set up his own commercial venture to challenge Donald Trump ally Mike Lindell and his My Pillow company.
David Hogg has been accused of “grift” by other leaders of the March for Our Lives group for his new Good Pillow venture, which the former Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school student launched just days before the 14 February anniversary of the massacre that took 17 lives.
In a tweeted statement, March for Our Lives (MFOL) announced that Hogg, 20, was taking a leave of absence as a board member “to take some time for himself to reflect and recommit to the mission”.
Pointedly, the statement, presumably authored by Hogg’s fellow founders, continued: “We want our youth activists, supporters and followers to know that the Good Pillow company is not associated with March for Our Lives.”
But it conceded: “Survivors of gun violence are whole people and we encourage them to find inspiration and passion outside of their trauma.”
Hogg, now a student at Harvard University, announced the formation of Good Pillow on Tuesday, and the company, set up in partnership with the Blockchain technology entrepreneur William LeGate, quickly amassed more than 80,000 Twitter followers.
Intended as a foil to My Pillow owner Lindell, who has been banned by Twitter and lost lucrative business deals for his support of Trump’s lies about a “stolen” presidential election, Good Pillow has pledged to be a “quality, ethical and sustainable company”.
Immediately after its launch, Good Pillow said it was going quiet for a few days to recognize the third anniversary of the Parkland shooting. “While we honor those we lost on that horrific day, we remain fully committed to delivering on what we’ve promised,” Hogg and LeGate said in a joint statement.
Cameron Kasky, 20, a fellow Parkland survivor, gun reform activist and MFOL founder, used Twitter to appear to attack Hogg’s actions, without mentioning him by name. “To those of you who marched, donated, lobbied, and called for change… I’m so sorry this is what it turned into. This is embarrassing,” he wrote in the first of a lengthy series of critical messages.
“But welcome to America, everything ends up a grift.”
In another thread, he wrote: “Hm, I see a lot of support for my pillow grift tweets from people in the Parkland community and people in the gun violence prevention community nationwide.”
It is the second time in two weeks that Hogg has been caught up in controversy. He called for the resignation of the extremist Georgia Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene last month after video emerged of her harassing him in Washington DC, following the conspiracy theorist’s claims that the Parkland shooting was staged.
On Wednesday, he posted a Twitter statement of his own, admitting that he had said “maybe too much” ahead of the anniversary, and apologizing for “undermining” his March For Our Lives peers.
“To my fellow organizers and those I love most, I want to express my deepest apologies,” he wrote. “You all have been there for me through some of the roughest times of my life, and I also want to thank you for your continued practice of holding me accountable. Fellow activists who do not have the platform and privilege that I have reminded me that this work takes unwavering commitment.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime, 14, was one of the victims of the shooting, offered Hogg his support. “A very mature decision. Always here if you need,” he wrote in a tweet.
As teenagers, the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas survivors formed March for Our Lives in the days immediately following the Valentine’s Day shooting by a former student, meeting in each others’ bedrooms and local parks to plot tactics and strategy.
It grew quickly into a global movement pressing for gun law controls and reforms, and in March 2018, six weeks after the shooting, hundreds of thousands rallied in Washington DC, around the US and in cities worldwide calling for change.
Its most prominent founding members, including Hogg, Kasky, Emma González and Jaclyn Corin, have continued their activism, since graduating to universities and colleges, and maintain an influential platform with millions of social media followers between them.
But despite the reach of the youth activists’ messaging the group and allies such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action have not been able to achieve large-scale federal or state gun reforms.
Numerous gun control bills in Congress were thwarted by previous Republican majorities, and smaller successes have been mostly limited to state legislatures, such as Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act that raised the firearms buying age from 18 to 21, banned rapid-fire bump stocks and improved mental health funding.
March for Our Lives has also worked to reduce the gun lobby’s influence on national politics, and celebrated the bankruptcy of the National Rifle Association last month.
Joe Biden’s election to the White House, meanwhile, has raised the group’s optimism that improved gun safety laws, including reinstating the nation’s lapsed ban on assault weapons, could soon be back on the table.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, said: “Addressing gun violence in the country and putting in place additional safety measures is something that the president has a personal commitment to.”
Copyright © 2021 theguardian.com. All rights reserved.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.