“My school, my safety!”
“What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!”
Denver-area students, mostly from Northfield High School, gathered and chanted at the Colorado State Capitol midday Friday to protest gun violence and stand in solidarity with those affected by such violence.
The protest comes three days after an 18-year-old shooter opened fire at an elementary school killing 19 children and 2 adults in Uvalde, TX.
It also comes after a lockdown at Northfield High School Thursday morning increased tensions and anxieties around school shootings. The lockdown was due to a report of a weapon, which turned out to be a paintball gun, according to Denver police. Two people were taken into custody and later released, DPD tweeted. The investigation is ongoing and charges may follow.
“No one in Texas thought that was going to happen to them,” Anna Sandene said. “No one in Parkland thought that was going to happen to them. Yesterday at our school, no one thought that was going to happen. Thank god it was fake. Thank god. Because there would be a lot less people here today if it wasn’t. Nothing has changed. We did something about this when we were 14 years old and here we are, 18 and 17 and nothing has changed. We need to keep pushing. More and more lives are going to keep getting taken away if we don’t do anything about it.”
Several students spoke on the Capitol stairs in front of a small crowd of parents and onlookers. They talked about yesterday’s incident at school and how gun violence has become intertwined in their lives via active shooter drills, mass shootings and subsequent protesting.
According to The Washington Post, at least 185 children, teachers and other people have lost their lives in school shootings since the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999, which occurred before many of these students were born.
One student, Jude Keener-Ruscha, said they were out in the hall when the lockdown began yesterday. Their class was unavailable because the teacher hadn’t arrived but another teacher, Dan Roberts, stepped out into the hall to bring students inside his classroom.
“He stepped out of his safe classroom when there could’ve been an armed shooter and he gathered our class and he took us under his wing and told us to go into his classroom and he kept us safe and he kept us calm and he told us everything was going to be okay,” Keener-Ruscha said. “I looked at the two people who were sitting next to me and I love them so much and I had thought, well if I die sitting next to these two people, then it’s not that bad. That is a thought no student should ever have in a classroom.”
Keener-Ruscha went on to say that “adults have failed” students because no policies have changed in their lifetime to stop mass shootings.
Protesting isn’t new to these students.
Isabella Carabetta and Elliot Guinness, Northfielders who graduated this year, led a walkout their eighth grade year after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“We organized a walkout after the Parkland shooting and our entire school exited the building and had a moment of silence for each student that passed,” Guinness said. “Here we are four years later and nothing has changed… It’s honestly just sad. In my personal opinion, I feel hopeless. I feel like there’s really no room for growth in this country because our leaders don’t seem to listen but hopefully these kids here who have shown up today and will continue to show up will make some change in the future.”
Maka, a rising senior at Northfield, echoed the sentiment. She talked about how her nieces and nephews were entering school soon and that tragedies such as Uvalde and Parkland shouldn’t be something they remember.
“This isn’t something I want them to go through,” Maka said. “My nephew… is only six years old… yesterday, I had five missed calls from him. It was the worst feeling ever. Just last week, he sent me a picture of his art project, guys, he made a gingerbread house out of popsicle sticks. Those are the things that I want my nieces and nephews and kids around the world to experience.”
After the students spoke, they held a moment of silence. Maka then grabbed a bullhorn and lead the group in a few chants.
“Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Guns in schools have got to go!”
“Protect our kids!”
Maka, who’s set to be senior class president next year, said she hopes that when the new school year comes around some changes have been made. She added that as a school leader, she’ll always advocate for change and that if other students are weary or scared to speak up, they shouldn’t be.
“A lot of policies that are put into place are to make the future a better place. But what’s the point of putting these policies in place if there’s not going to be people around in the future to carry it on,” Maka said. “Our kids are the future… Knowledge is power. Educate yourself and educate those around you. Don’t be afraid to use your voice because at the end of the day student voices are sometimes the thing that gets the point across.”
Earlier Friday morning, Students from STRIVE Prep – RISE in Green Valley Ranch also held a walkout.
Shouting “Enough is enough,” and “No guns, protect the kids,” students walked around the school heading north towards E. 56th Avenue to curve back around toward campus.