Chanting, “Enough is enough. It could have been us,” and “Protect kids, not guns,” well over 150 Decatur High School students, some carrying signs, walked from their campus up 320th Street to 21st Avenue South before looping back and returning to class Wednesday.
The march was part of National School Walkout Day, which was a nationwide campaign established to protest violence in schools and remember the victims of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 14.
In addition to Decatur, students led walkouts at Federal Way, Todd Beamer and Thomas Jefferson high schools, all six FWPS middle schools, Nautilus and Woodmont K-8 schools, Taf@Saghalie and Federal Way Public Academy.
Decatur junior Ruby Edwards said she knew she wanted to do something to take a stand shortly after the Parkland shootings, so she and 10 to 15 other like-minded classmates formed the club We Act, which organized the walkout, which began at 10 a.m.
Edwards said the walkout was intended to serve as both a remembrance for the Parkland victims and as demand for more action to be taken by everyone to protect students.
“What we want to see, mainly, is kind of to unify students,” she said. “We want to show the community that we are all standing against violence against students. Something needs to be done now. We’re not going to wait for [others] to make the change. We want to see change now.”
While many of the National School Walkout Day protests nationally targeted gun control, and more than a few Decatur marchers called for that, Edwards said, when planning the walkout, We Act Club members were focused more on creating a unifying theme that change is needed, rather than specifying what that should actually entail.
Edwards said, instead of just focusing on guns at the state or national level, she would like the march to spur smaller preventative measures that could be implemented more immediately by the community and school district.
Edwards said she thinks small things, such as installing cameras in the schools that would live feed to the police department and show where a shooter was on campus, would make a difference now. She said lockdown drills practiced in the school should be more comprehensive for both teachers and students, as well.
“After Parkland, just in our friend group, we kind of agreed that we all don’t know what to do if there’s a shooter. We wouldn’t know what we should do or where we should go in that situation,” Edwards said. “I feel like if we were trained, and we knew what to do, that would save a lot of lives.”
Edwards’ classmate Crystal Rivera, who is also a member of the We Act Club, said she wants there to be greater regulation on weapons like the one used by Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at Parkland, as well as their accessories. At the minimum, Rivera, a senior, said the age limit on purchasing those types of weapons or accessories should be increased. She said she doesn’t understand why she isn’t able to rent a car until she is 25, but somebody can buy such dangerous assault weapons so much younger.
“For somebody so young to be able to purchase something so deadly at such a young age, that’s not logical at all,” Rivera said. “At the very least increase the age, if not ban the purchase of such deadly weapons.”
Rivera said, like many others, she decided to speak out because the Parkland shootings left her unnerved.
“It was the first time in all my years when I didn’t feel safe being there,” she said. “I know that if I can ever do anything to help prevent something like that happening again, then I want to be a part of it.”
She said she thinks politicians aren’t inclined to pay attention to younger people and what they think because they are not yet old enough to vote, but with the Parkland shooting generating so much conversation nationwide, she said maybe lawmakers will start to listen.
“It’s really important for us to take advantage of the opportunities we have right now and speak up and kind of add to the change that’s already taking place right now by young people in our nation,” Rivera said.
Edwards agreed. She said she and other members of Decatur’s We Act Club will continue their push for change by participating in a solidarity walk planned to begin at 10 a.m. March 24 at Federal Way High School and end at Town Square Park.
After that, the We Act Club will decide what it wants to do, but she hopes it will continue pushing for change.
“I don’t think we all necessarily have to have the same views to take a stand,” Edwards said. “Even though we have so many diverse opinions on these matters, it shows that we can all come together and have a conversation.”