by Kaitlyn Garrett / Lion Staff
“We want to keep the movement moving,” Sarah Packman (10) explained to me on the eve of the walkout.
The days leading up to the event were tireless and chaotic, according to Sarah. Students from all grades came together to participate in the event on April 20th: the 19th anniversary of the Columbine Shooting.
While they gathered for a variety of reasons, they were united in one common belief: Gun violence must stop.
However, this wasn’t any little stunt that a couple of fed-up teenagers assembled. Those supporting this cause are ready to fight for new regulations of gun laws until they see a change.
Most people mistakenly think that the walkout was organized by TAP, but it was actually led by Dylan Shapiro (11).
At 9:16 AM on April 19th he sent an email to the entire school explaining the plan for the walkout, welcoming those who want to speak out about their views on gun violence, and encouraging students to register as voters.
Dylan was first motivated to organize the event after he realized that Lovett students would be on spring break on March 14th for the National Walkout. The ball began rolling when a Westminster student reached out to him asking if he was interested in planning a joint event. They then decided that Westminster and Lovett have different, unique situations, but regardless, the fact that other people wanted to advocate was motivating. “It was really great to know that other schools in our area are equally committed to demonstrating support for gun violence prevention, and as a community, Lovett has no reason to be silent,” Dylan said.
But he also had many personal thoughts and preferences to motivate him to start the movement.
“The reason why I was inspired to organize this walkout is because I have a renewed sense of optimism as a result of the youth activism that has resulted from the Parkland shootings. I’ve always been a little pessimistic that our generation was too inclined to tune things out, or at least that we had so much thrown at us over the course of our lifetimes that we simply gave up on politics…. Lovett as a community must be a part of this movement, not only for the goal of pushing for common sense gun violence prevention legislation in our state and nation, but also to continue to foster this renewed civic spirit so that it carries over into the future issues we will face as citizens,” he says.
Many students, including sophomore Sarah Packman, worked closely with Dylan during the movement. She explained that the administration was very “nice and understanding” of the cause, but they were very clear that rules concerning tardiness and unexcused absences would remain effective. There would be no special treatment.
Mr. Alig was completely comfortable with the planning of the event and the outcome. He was especially proud of Dylan’s efforts: “He was very thoughtful and proactive and he met with me a couple of times, we had an email exchange. I was really impressed by the way that he and others approached it.”
The walkout began on Friday morning with a schedule of set speakers, a moment of silence, and an open mic for people to voice their thoughts and opinions.
Sarah Packman was one of those who prepared a speech for the day.
“We’re not saying that you aren’t allowed to hunt. We’re saying that a 17 year old with a history of violence shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a semi-automatic weapon! We’re saying that assault weapons in general shouldn’t be necessary to keep you safe in your home!” she said to the crowd.
The walkout concluded with Sanci Smith’s (10) performance of Rise Up.
But what inspired this song to be the anthem for the Walk Out?
Sanci told me that the song is recognized as one of the songs for the movement: “Andra Day performed rise up at the March For Our Lives in D.C, so I thought it would be a good choice.”
Many other students were also involved in the movement, including Frances Wargo.
She was inspired to take a stand after she kept on imagining what would happen if the next shooting was here at Lovett or closer to her home. “I have a friend who goes to a different school, and someone posted a picture of them with a gun saying that they’d go out with a bang. The person was taken care of, but my friend was really shaken up. I don’t want to have that happen to me or anyone I know,” she explains.
Samantha Jones (11) says that she chose to participate in the walkout because of research she had done on the recent Parkland shooting, which revealed to her “how much of a gun problem we have in America.”
She also believed that the event was necessary and was a good demonstration of unity within the community.
Emma D’Emilio (10) also had similar viewpoints: “I liked that people felt safe enough to voice their opinions.”
Brendan Okeson (10) also saw successes in the event. “I thought that it went really well considering it was one of the first major events like this that I organized.”
Organizers did have concerns that the rally may have appeared to focus on political parties and political beliefs instead of on the common issue that gun violence needs to stop.
“I think it definitely could have gone better,” says Paxton Trevett (10), a head participant in the walkout. “I think all of the speakers were fantastic, but I think the counter-protest going on next to it really put a damper on everyone’s spirit about it because we were trying to unite under the message that school shootings should be stopped.”
Mr. Alig felt the counter-protesters were free to express their opinions, but thought their message may have been running at “cross-currents” with the message of the walkout. “I don’t really think they were protesting the same idea because the protest was not about gun control. It was about stopping gun violence on school campus,” he said. “So the people that were objecting to that message really weren’t objecting to that message... they were protesting a different issue.”
Senior Jordan Jones, the leader of the counter protest, shared his perspective on their purpose.
“It’s called the March For Our Lives… no one wants to see kids die, and just because I’m on the other side of the plaza on the bench protesting doesn’t mean that I don’t care that kids die,” he said. “I had some people come up to me after and say ‘17 kids died. How are you gonna protest against that?’ and that’s not what I’m protesting. I’m protesting the method with which we solve these school shootings. I think that there are other ways to go about it.”
The official decision to follow through with the counter-protest came together the morning of the walkout when Jordan decided to buy a poster from the bookstore. After he created one, his friends followed his example.
One of the posters he created said, “The NRA won’t go away” and Jordan had a reason for this too.
“When you look at stats and stuff, guns aren’t really the problem...that’s what I believe,” he said. And he has no problem with the people who aren’t trying to have guns taken away and were protesting school shootings. “By all means I would gladly protest that,” he said. “But when people are saying that the NRA is buying politicians and stuff, that’s just not true so I have to sort of stand up against that.”
Senior Wilson Hobbes is interested to see how the war will play out between between politics and the attitude towards school shootings. Less than an hour before the walkout, he told me “we will be able to see how the gun rights issue compares to the political leaning of the school and if these events from the past couple of months and years have an effect on how gun rights gets out of the political context.”
Samantha Jones wonders about the long-term legacy of this event. “Years from now you won’t remember going to chapel and the rest of your school day, but you will remember being a part of history.”
Whether you were at the front of the plaza or in the back on the benches, or somewhere in between, one thing seems clear: No one in the Lovett community is for school shootings. But there are many different perspectives on how to keep them from happening.