Columbine shooting anniversary inspires student organized walk out
April 21, 2018
Students march to Capitol
“Protect students, not guns” “We are enraged” “Thoughts and prayers are not bulletproof.” These are just some of the messages that were plastered on signs in the Huss Center on Apr. 20 as students gathered to walk to the capitol to rally against gun violence This particular walkout, although not the first of its time, is special because it took place on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting and was a nationwide event. The last walkout that St. Paul Academy and Summit School students helped organize was just before spring break on Mar. 7. Previously, students found rides to Central High School and gathered there to go the Capitol but this year the rally began at school. Most students walked the five miles from SPA to the Capitol and then found other means of transportation to get back.
Although this walkout isn’t isolated to Minnesota, many students from schools around the Twin Cities metro area met at the Capitol to rally; the SPA walkout was organized by sophomores Anna Snider, Savita Yopp, Naomi Wilson, Martha Slaven and Nina Smetana.
“The day after the shooting I talked to one or two other people and this was just an idea we had because we were fed up and wanted to do something. […] We wrote up what we were going to do and planned a route, it was a lot of work but we want to give people a voice and a way to speak up,” Snider said.
Along with planning the walkout at SPA, the students helped plan the events at the Capitol.
“We have planned an open mic at the Capitol for students to speak, and poetry regarding gun violence will be read,” Smetana said.
The walkout was planned as a way to give students a voice in a cause that many SPA students feel very passionate about.
“Most of us [students] can’t vote yet but we’re the ones who are being affected by gun violence. Politically we don’t have a lot of power so walkouts are a way of showing that we do have power and a method of communicating with our leaders in Washington,” Snider said.
“I want [students] to not be afraid to continue to fight for their voices to be heard. Gun violence isn’t a trend and it will not go away without prompting or constant efforts to change the laws,” Smetana said.
The goal of the students planning the walkout and those participating is to affect change and to show solidarity with victims of gun violence.
Junior Ben Atmore marched with a sign that read “We are enraged” and the letters “NRA” in the word “enraged” were crossed out.
“I believe it is important to rally with a national cause even if it means missing one day of school because I can easily make that up. For this national movement in particular where lives are literally at stake it is extremely important,” Atmore said.
9th grader Gavin Kimmel wore orange, the color of the gun control movement, to the walkout to show his support.
“I think it’s really important to support gun reform. […] We are remembering the horrible things that have happened in the past, acknowledging them and not just ignoring them,” Kimmel said.
9th grader Gracie Tilney-Kaemmer also participated in the walkout to protest the culture around guns, specifically AR-15s in the United States.
“Throughout my lifetime I’ve become so accustomed to mass shootings. Nothing has changed yet and I think [walkouts] are a good way to draw public attention to it because people are becoming used to[mass shootings] as if they are the norm but kids dying in school each year shouldn’t be the norm,” Tilney-Kaemmer said.
The walkout took place on Apr. 20 at 10 am and similar events happened around the nation to mark the 20th anniversary of Columbine and show solidarity with the March for our Lives movement.
While many walk out, some stay in school
On National Walk Out day, students marched to the Capitol to emphasize the need for increased gun control in response to the recent school shootings. Although plenty of students participated in the walkout, students who did not march remained at school.
9th grader Allison Audette did not attend the walkout because she did not have a ride.
For 9th-grader Nikolas Liepins, he felt that he needed to be at school so he wouldn’t fall behind: “I already missed a bit of school for a few other reasons and am going to continue to miss some more, so I couldn’t afford to miss school today.”
Whether in support of gun legislation, against new restrictions, or another reason, the walkout stirred political and personal responses.
Grievances shouted on Capitol steps
Students and some faculty alike stood in solidarity for those students whose lives were taken due to guns, and the broader issue of gun violence within the United States. From loud chants to listening to selected speakers share their messages of empowerment and to vote when possible, the march on Apr. 20 at the Capitol surely was a culmination of an ongoing movement for gun reform.