Students protest gun violence, walk out in honor of Columbine victims

Students protest gun violence, walk out in honor of Columbine victims

As classes were called into session at 10:15 a.m. April 20, roughly two-dozen students bearing shirts and signs protesting gun violence stationed themselves outside the front gates to partake in the National School Walkout honoring the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Emotions ran high on the front steps as walkout organizers Shira Griffith (11) and Paige Riza (11) performed emphasizing the impact of gun violence following the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, with various students breaking into tears upon listening to the stories of each victims from the Columbine shooting.

“It was such a moving time to see the school come together for a greater cause as it connected us to every school across the country as if we were all standing together arm in arm,” Griffith said. “We were able to lean on each other and just let go and fully feel all the emotions.”

Following a moment of silence and closing remarks from Mary Lynn Tracy (11), students hoisted their signs and paraded off campus towards the Torrey Highlands Shopping center, with chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to,” and “the students united will never be divided” permeating the air.

“Our generation, we’re going to be the leaders some day,” Riza said. “We’re going to be the politicians, businessmen, businesswomen and the leaders of this world, so we need to know what’s happening and we need to spark conversation and inspire kids to become more involved with politics, especially with things that directly affect our schools and our safety.”

In contrast with the March 14 walkout where hundreds of students protested on and off campus, before returning to their classes, only half the students protesting, April 20, returned to campus.

According to Riza, many of the students who partook in the initial walkout elected not to participate in this walkout due to these attendance concerns.

“I know more people who are really passionate about this movement and wanted to participate, but either them or their parents were worried about attendance and not being able to make up tests,” Riza said. “I respect that, but sometimes you have to make change by acting radical (in this case by either being marked truant for one period or all day) and that’s something I like about this movement.”

Despite the small turnout, Riza said she believes that Westview’s participation in the walkout still made an impact in the larger scheme of the movement.

“We were surprised by the turnout,” Riza said. “It was a lot less than we intended, but when you think about it in the large scale, with all the smaller walkouts and marches around the country, there’s going to be a larger impact.”

Motivated to incite change regarding gun violence following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, both Riza and Griffith also served as representatives in the initial walkout.

“[This issue] hits home especially with Parkland, since a lot of the kids were our age,” Griffith said. “It made me think about the lockdown we had last year and how that could have happened to us too.”

Furthermore, with fewer students involved in comparison with the previous walkout, both accepted a number of additional responsibilities in preparation for the April 20 walkout. These responsibilities included designing posters, contacting local politicians, setting up town hall meetings, writing speeches and advertising the walkout on Instagram.

In addition, Riza, Griffith, and other Wolverines met with walkout representatives from other PUSD schools as well as from San Dieguito United School District on March 24 for San Diego’s March For Our Lives rally at Waterfront Park.

“We thought that we should get together as unified school districts to showcase our unity,” Riza said.

According to Griffith, they have since teamed up with walkout representatives from other schools to organize town council meetings and have continued brainstorming ideas, thus easing the overall process of organizing the walkout.

“I felt so much more prepared for this walkout after we met up with people from other schools,” Griffith said. “We now have this group of people that we can share ideas with and ask, ‘hey, what do you think about this?’”

In retrospect, Griffith and Riza said they hope that their efforts organizing walkouts or town council meetings continue to spark conversation regarding the demand for gun legislation reform, even as time passes since the Parkland shooting.

“The whole catchphrase for the walkout movement is ‘it’s not a moment, it’s a movement,’’’ Griffith said. “We want to keep the conversation going and convey that these things are still happening and prove that it’s not something that we’re thinking about for 30 seconds, but something that we’ll be thinking about for the rest of our lives, so that actual change will happen.”