National protests motivate students to join in

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National protests motivate students to join in

Juniors Azure Spofford, Asher Whitmire, sophomore Jack Bolden, and senior Becca Molina stand holding signs in protest of gun violence on April 20.

Juniors Azure Spofford, Asher Whitmire, sophomore Jack Bolden, and senior Becca Molina stand holding signs in protest of gun violence on April 20.

Photo by Blaine Young

Juniors Azure Spofford, Asher Whitmire, sophomore Jack Bolden, and senior Becca Molina stand holding signs in protest of gun violence on April 20.

Photo by Blaine Young

Photo by Blaine Young

Juniors Azure Spofford, Asher Whitmire, sophomore Jack Bolden, and senior Becca Molina stand holding signs in protest of gun violence on April 20.

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Walking outside on that gloomy Friday morning around 9:45 a.m., students could see police cars surrounding all sides of the school with their lights on. One officer even had a large rifle strapped around his chest.

On April 20 at 10 a.m., 25 students walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting.

Several school administrators and additional police officers stood just inside the main high school building, watching the protesters outside. A few students shouted at the protesters to “walk in” on their way to class.The protest ended at the start of third period when members of administration came out of the school to disperse the students, telling them that it was time to go to class.

The walkout, which was part of a series of national protests, started in the wake of the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead. The survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School currently leading the movement have asked for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and digitized gun ownership records, all of which the protesting students were asking for.

The protest started with reading the names of the students killed at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, and at Parkland earlier this year. They also read the story of what happened to 22-year-old Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police in his own backyard.

The students held signs that said “Enough is enough,” “Am I next?” and “My outrage doesn’t fit on a sign.” Six students gave prepared speeches and a few shared their thoughts individually for the small group that gathered on the school front porch.

Many cars honked at the protesters in support while driving by and a few adults walking by even stopped to record the protest.

Photo courtesy of John Pedrotti
Seniors James Bagnell, Trey Skrobarczyk and John Pedrotti pose by their flags after school on April 20. The flags flew all day and they did not walk out.

However, the protest didn’t go on without opposition. Just across the street, students could see American, Texan and Come and Take It flags waving in the wind in the beds of large trucks. A few seniors flew them as a counter protest. Senior John Pedrotti said that the counter protest was not done out of spite, but just as a way to express the opposing side.

“I flew (the flags) to say ‘this is my side of this issue,’” Pedrotti said. “The Constitution protects our rights and I don’t think they should change.”

Junior AJ Stirling agrees that owning guns is an American right, but he also thinks that they should be more regulated.

“It is written into our constitution,” Stirling said. “But that does not mean they should just be distributed willy-nilly with no regard for the damage they can do.”

One of the organizers, sophomore Tess Romano, wrote a poem instead of a speech and delivered it passionately. In a section of the poem, she referenced a recent school lockdown on April 11 that turned out to be a false alarm.

“We should be stressed over tests and homework and that one kid in class that won’t shut up, not lockdowns,” Romano said. “We had one last week. I grabbed my phone, ready to call my parents and say ‘I told you it would happen now,’ because everyone has a gun somehow.”

The protest ended with a few chants such as “no more silence, end gun violence.”

Stirling said he very happy about the way the walkout turned out. He said that there were people that wanted to come but were afraid, and that made him feel like the walkout made an impact.

“Regardless of who actually showed up, everyone in the school knows about it, and getting people to know that there are people trying to make a difference, that there are people willing to work to change things, is a big step forward,” he said.

Photo by Blaine Young
Sophomore Ciara Cervantes reads a speech off her phone while holding a sign at the protest on April 20.

Sophomores Amyah Stomer and Tiana Ng, who were among the six students to organize the walkout, said they were excited to be a part of a nationwide protest.

“I just saw all of the other schools doing it on Twitter and stuff and I just went on the link and saw that our school wasn’t signed up for it,” Stomer said. ”I thought about it for a couple days and then I thought it’d better if I did. I didn’t expect this much to happen from it.”

Since signing the school up for the walkout a month ago, the anticipation has stirred up the student body and school. The six students that organized it, Stirling, Stomer, Ng, Romano, and sophomores Ciara Cervantes and Cayla Watson, have gotten local news coverage.

Principal James Crenshaw asked students on the morning announcements the week of the walkout not to participate, and said that contacting state and federal representatives would have a greater impact than walking out. He also provided a list of representatives for students to contact.

Ng said with a confident expression that she would continue with the walkout in the face of punishment, a mentality shared by the students interviewed who organized the event. Administration handed out one day of in school suspension to every student reported to have participated.

Stomer said she believes that the opportunity of the walkout greatly outweighed the punishment.

“It’s a lot bigger than me and the school,” she said. “It’s about our government. If things do change, (going to the walkout) is a once in a lifetime (opportunity), and I think it’s worth going and being a part of something bigger than yourself.”

The Waldron Street Journal is written and edited by students of Flour Bluff High School and they are solely responsible for its editorial policy and content. Viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of other students, faculty, or the administrations or school boards of the Flour Bluff School District.