“This is not an excuse to get out of class,” East High senior Hermela Goshu said through a megaphone after scores of her classmates, and even some staff, streamed out of the ornate building Thursday afternoon.
Instead, it was a moment of solace.
Goshu and her friends sent notice of the class walk-out through their social media channels. The digital note was quickly passed through the student body.
“Join us,” it read, “to demand our lawmakers immediately take action on the national emergency that is gun violence.”
Goshu’s friend and fellow organizer, Kaliya Carrillo, a junior, told us it had to happen quickly.
“We had to say something, and I felt like saying something right away was really important,” she said. “The faculty actually wanted us to wait two weeks, but we were like, we need to do something today, to get it done now and to show that we have solidarity with the people who died.”
At Goshu’s behest, the crowd of students sat around the giant, red “E” in front of the high school and observed five minutes of silence. Then, she invited classmates to address the group. One was Ally Yager, a junior and president of East’s Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance, who tied the killings of six Asian American women in Georgia a few weeks ago to the massacre inside the Boulder King Soopers last week.
While Goshu said there’s a fine line to walk in pushing political messaging in this moment, she felt the tragedies that have unfolded over the last year are all related. She and Carrillo both led marches in Denver this summer calling for an end to violence against Black lives.
“It’s standing up against hate and encouraging lawmakers to do their job. Because when we have things like police standing on peoples’ necks until they die, and when we have things like eight days after a ban on assault weapons is lifted, 10 people die, it’s easy to see that they’re policy issues,” she said. “Encouraging young people to advocate for better policy and reach out to their lawmakers, I think that is the ultimate goal – but also respecting the lives of those that were taken for no reason.”
Carrillo was encouraged to see so many classmates show up.
“I know that strength comes in numbers, and when I see a lot of people fighting for a change, it’s more powerful,” she said.
When asked whether she felt like their voices were being heard, if they were making an impact, she said she wasn’t sure. But that was kind of besides the point.
“If we do nothing, nothing will happen,” she said. “I’d rather risk the chance that this wont do anything than do nothing at all.”
Goshu, too, said she wasn’t sure how many politicians are listening. This, to her, is about the long game.
“I don’t have faith in this generation of politicians, but I have faith in my generation. I have faith in every single one of the people who showed up today,” she told us. “I think that my generation is really going to make the change, and so I have hope in us. But I don’t have hope in adults and the people who are handing over this world to us.”
As she sent her students back inside to finish their school days, Goshu thanked them for their solidarity. She closed with a request.
“Continue to come out and speak out and have your voices heard about these issues. Advocate for mental health. Advocate for one another. Love one another. And please,” she said, “continue to come together.”