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"What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!"
February 19, 2018
On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 people. They ranged from freshman students to adults, trombone players to football coaches. There have been over 15 school shootings and 30 mass shootings this year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.
In response to the shooting and other acts of gun violence this year, students from Iowa City schools decided to stage a walkout at 11:00 today. Southeast, West High, and City High joined forces to organize and participate in the walkout.
“Students at City High are intelligent, hard-working, socially conscious individuals. Our students are the leaders of tomorrow,” John Bacon, principal of City High, said. “It does not surprise me that City High students are working together in a peaceful, respectful manner to try to do what they believe is right.”
Because the walkout was partially planned by junior high students, a few high schoolers decided to walk to Southeast before the official walkout to meet students and create a safe route for the younger participants.
“We drove over to South East today because the junior high students have a right to protest too,” said Theo Prineas ’18. “Their voices have to be heard as well.”
This walkout, which is the second that City students have participated in, gathered a crowd of over 200 students, according to the Press-Citizen and the Des Moines Register.
Bihotza James-Lejarcegui ’18 was one of the organizers of today’s event.
“It’s admirable that junior high students are taking initiatives to speak out and show the administration, the school district, and most importantly our politicians where they stand with gun violence,” said James-Lejarcegui. “And everyone should encourage and support them.”
The route ended at the Old Capitol building, where students spoke about personal experiences with gun violence. Edie Knoop ’18 was one of those speakers. She talked about how, in elementary school, they had to go on a lockdown following the murder of one of her classmates and his family.
There have been approximately 15,592 gun-related deaths in 2017, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That roughly translates to 43 people killed each day. Because of this, James-Lejarcegui says the protests won’t end here.
“People keep asking what actions are going to be taken other than a walkout, and there are so many other options that people don’t know about. Some students from West and City are organizing a session after school where students can call their senators and register to vote. Things like this, getting informed and involved, are so important.”
Teagan Roeder ’18 sees today’s activism as much more than a demonstration.
“We may be much more — a model for how students organize themselves,” he said. “We’re here for a movement, not a moment.”