At least 45 Portland area schools joined hundreds more across the nation Wednesday in solidarity with student-led walkouts to declare “enough” in response to growing gun violence and the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla. one month ago.
Many of the demonstrations included a 17-minute moment of silence for the 17 students and teachers killed at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The message from student speeches and pickets was that Congress needs to approve gun control legislation.
Among the peaceful demonstrations held locally was from a group of students at St. Andrew Nativity School, a northeast Portland middle school. The students left classes at 10 a.m. and held signs, marched down Martin Luther King Boulevard and chanted, “What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!”
Roosevelt High School in St. Johns also held a rally on their athletic field that included an education talk about gun laws in the U.S. and other countries, student and teacher testimonies, and a moment of silence.
“We just want to survive high school without being gunned down,” one Roosevelt sophomore pleaded to the crowd of over a hundred students and teachers.
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, elected officials, and school board members were also in attendance. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who signed a new state law this month that makes it more difficult for abusive intimate partners and stalkers to obtain guns, also attended.
Tracie Talerico, who has been teaching English at the school for the past four years, was a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate in 1996.
“I didn’t have lockdown drills, the only drills I ever had were fire drills,” she said to students and administrators.
“Douglas is no different than Roosevelt. Douglas is no different than any other school where you go to class, and you talk with your friends, and you try to learn, and you try to make it through the day,” she said before calling on students, who she called “fearless” and “brave” to take action and vote. “The future is in your hands,” she added.
Senior Magda Armendarig Sullivan, 17, made the case for adopting policies similar to Australia. That country banned semi-automatic weapons, created more hurdles for people to buy guns, and implemented a government gun buy-back program. They’ve not had a mass shooting since the laws took place in 1996.
“I hope that lawmakers see they need to listen to us and they need to change the laws surrounding guns,” Armendarig Sullivan told the Portland Observer.
“As students, we do have a voice and it’s powerful and they need to listen to us and they need to create change,” said senior Zoe Dumm, who shared a moving poem at the demonstration.
“I feel like it’s been happening my whole life. I’ve watched kids die and wondered if that could’ve been me. And it’s just kind of been swept under the rug,” another student, Dyllan Newville, 16, remarked.
“I just hope that we’re heard or seen, and that somebody takes an action with us, not just us,” sophomore Taylor Greene, 15, said.
Greene said she will be helping with an a “March for Our Lives” demonstration happening on Saturday, March 24 in downtown Portland, which will also coincide with protests across the nation in solidarity with the Parkland students who have been advocating gun law reforms.