Hundreds of Lancers participate in National School Walkout

Senior+Owen+Sneddon+leads+chants+at+the+National+School+Walkout.+Photo+by+Bella+Gil.

Senior Owen Sneddon leads chants at the National School Walkout. Photo by Bella Gil.

Bella Gil, Editor-in-Chief

 

Thousands of high schools across the country took part in the National School Walkout, organized and called for by the Women’s March Youth Organization, based on the brutal massacre killing 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. This march was called to take place exactly a month later and to last for 17 minutes, starting at 10 AM, in order to honor the 17 lives lost.

Among many hearing about this nationwide event, three students at La Serna High School took special interest and decided to spearhead this project in order for their voices to be heard. Maria Gastelum-Vera, Owen Sneddon, and David Roman, all seniors, curated an Instagram account and got the word out about what was to take place the day of the walkout.

“Like many people around the country, I felt incredibly angry and sad about the loss of lives in Parkland,” Gastelum-Vera said, “and at the frequency in which mass shootings at schools occurred [here in the United States], so me, along with David and Owen talked to Ms. Fitzgerald and administration to see what the best way to approach the walkout, and how we can honor the lives lost while still maintaining student safety, and following the rules.”

The administration fully supported their proposal. However, the walkout was to be scheduled and bid that students walk out of their classes at approximately 10 AM. At La Serna, 10 AM is in the middle of nutrition. So how was this walkout to be executed? Gastelum-Vera, Sneddon, and Roman had come to a consensus that La Serna’s walkout would occur as a congregation in the Senior Circle, which allowed students to gather together in respect solely to bring awareness. Spreading the news on social media through Twitter and Instagram, it was made aware to other students that the walkout would include photographers, chants, posters, and voter registration.

Once 10 AM had rolled around, the senior circle was full. Students had filled up the east quad stretching from the library to the College Corner. Homemade posters calling for gun reform and brandishing quotes such as, “NEVER AGAIN”  and “#ENOUGH” were raised high and proud, Gastelum, Sneddon, and Roman led chants that screamed, “Funds, not guns!” and a table was set up allowing people to register to become legal voters. Boys and girls from all grades attended this historic La Serna event. One sophomore, Bronte Breneir, explained her reason for attending: “Our purpose here is to create momentum and change so that we can get some new gun laws in place so that what happens in Florida doesn’t happen to us.”

Students just like Brenier flooded the walkout. However, like many traditional gatherings, there was an opposing side. A small group of male students wearing American flag bandanas and “Make America Great Again” hats were present at the rally and led chants that included “Build that wall,” “Blame the shooter,” and chanted Donald Trump’s name.

Junior Micah Kaneshiro said, “I think this is a good demonstration for both sides. I’m definitely pro-free speech, I just think people are misguided and misinterpret a lot of facts about gun control. People here are trying to make it an issue of guns when really, it’s an issue of mental illness.” These counter- protesters held a strong presence on social media before and after the walkout. Many were receiving intense backlash for “interrupting” and being “disrespectful” during a two minute moment of silence honoring the 17 fallen victims in Florida.

To counter this group’s argument, Senior Christian Israelian, sporting a “Feel the Bern” sweater, said, “I’m here because 39,000 people a year are affected by gun violence and this country has an obsession with guns…Not one piece of legislation has been passed in Washington since the 80’s with the Bradley Act and I definitely think that America should change that…” Israelian’s viewpoint was common with most students’ purpose at the walkout. Their primary goal was to call for reform and respect, not complete redaction.

Overall, this student-led walkout was executed much like a professionally organized nation-wide event. Gastelum said, “I think the walkout went really well. We had slight issues with counter-protesters, but I do think overall we got our message out and saw a lot of students getting engaged and aware of what’s going on.”

Although only 17 minutes, participants said the walkout felt longer based on its sheer intensity, power, and participants. It ended with an intense and emotional two minutes of silence to honor and pay respect to the 17 lives taken over a month ago. The organizers and staff asked for peace during this time, in which everyone responded with raising a peace sign up in the air.