Earlier in the week, on February 26th, Dead & Company continued their run of fall tour makeup shows with a performance at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. The city of Sunrise is located in Broward County, the location of the horrific February 14th mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers. During the show, Dead & Company paid tribute to the MSD students and faculty by performing primarily songs with themes of togetherness, unity, and love, as well as by wearing t-shirts emblazoned with #MSDStrong t-shirts. However, after the show, photos began to circulate of a special pre-show meet-and-greet between the members of the Grateful Dead-inspired six-piece and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

In the wake of the school massacre, the students and faculty of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been at the center of a national debate about gun control and education. Despite their younger age, the students have risen to meet the challenges of such a role, effectively galvanizing the country into action. Seventeen-year-old student Emma Gonzalez first made waves a few days after the shooting during a blistering and emotional speech at a press conference, calling out politicians for their inaction and monetary involvement with the NRA and declaring that “it’s time for victims to be the change we want to see.”

With Gonzalez setting a tone for the movement, surviving students and faculty and victims’ family members held nothing back during a CNN Town Hall in Sunrise last week as they called out politicians and the National Rifle Association for preventing common-sense gun control. There, in addition to Gonzalez, a number of other MSD students came into the national spotlight, including MSD student Cameron Kasky who challenged Senator Marco Rubio (R) to stop taking campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association and repeatedly followed up on the question when Rubio refused to give a straight answer.

With these brave high schoolers leading the way and the fear of fallout high, the gun control movement has been steadily gaining steam. A number of huge national corporations have been distancing themselves from the NRA in recent weeks as well, with yesterday seeing major gun retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21 and banning the sale of assault-style rifles (Dick’s also announced it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines) and attributing to the decision to the Parkland shooting. Furthermore, on Wednesday, President Donald J. Trump stunned the nation when he called out Republican Senators for being “afraid of the NRA” and declaring, “I like taking the guns early. Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

It’s clear that the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become the faces of something huge. During some of the students’ meet-and-greet with Dead & Company on Monday evening, Bob Weir and the other musicians hammered home the students’ power during a heartfelt speech. In new video uploaded by Sergio Rozenblat, Weir addressed the room of students—which included Cameron Kasky of  CNN Town Hall fame—first noting, “You’ve created quite a stir, and it’s focused, and it’s not the kind of thing that anyone can argue with, because you’re right.” Later during the video, Bill Kreutzmann doubled down on this idea, interjecting “They can’t ignore you.”

Weir encouraged the students to connect with HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that registers voters at concerts and engages musicians and music fans in democracy, explaining “HeadCount isn’t going to tell you what to do, because you guys are doing it, but they can give you tools and a little feedback like, ‘That didn’t work for us, but it might work you,’ because you guys have more punch.” He also encouraged the students, if interested, to register people to vote before declaring to the students, “Y’all could save our democracy.” 

In a different video posted by Mickey Hart, Hart also encouraged the students, doubling down on the idea that the kids speak for millions and millions of people (and Weir adding in that they speak so eloquently as well). After asking if the students were familiar with Joan Baez, Hart explained that he had been texting with Baez and had explained that he would be meeting with MSD students: “She asked me to give you her love and tell you much she respects you for doing this and that you have to do it. You have to be in the streets, you have to get out there. You have to knock ’em down in pieces, and don’t let go.”

You can also check out Oteil Burbridge’s Facebook post from Tuesday, when he called the students “some of the bravest young people I have ever met” and thanked them for being so inspiring.