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Students walk out to demand better gun legislation

Students at Brighton High School brave the cold to demand more progressive gun policy.
Tianna Manon
Students at Brighton High School brave the cold to demand more progressive gun policy.

Students across the nation walked out of their schools Thursday to protest gun violence and remember the lives of those murdered in a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month. These protests lasted roughly 17 minutes, one minute for each victim of that school shooting, and began at 10 a.m.

Jazmine Breedy is a 17-year-old student at Rochester’s World of Inquiry School. She says the protest was meant to shed light on gun violence and offer a platform for students who want to push for more gun control.

“Students need to understand that you can speak out without getting in trouble,” she said. “Students need to become more vocal with their thoughts instead of holding everything in because they think the teacher is right or because they think they’ll get in trouble.”

At her school, staff supported the walkout but at a few schools across the country some students were threatened with detention if they walked out, according to local school officials. Brighton Schools Superintendent Kevin McGowan doesn’t think that’s a great idea. He attended Brighton High School’s walkout and says adults could learn something from these students.

‘“If you heard what they had to say I think they spoke more eloquently, intelligently, thoughtfully, passionately than many adults do on these topics,” he said.“I could not be more proud of their leadership. I think we could all take a page out of their book and learn quite a bit.”

That walkout was partially organized by Dylan Holcomb, a student there who says intersectionality is key to a successful protest. During the walkout he asked for a moment of silence for 14-year-old Trevyan Rowe, a Rochester student who went missing Thursday and was found dead Sunday evening.

“Really I think it’s so important to avoid a single narrative,” Holcomb explained. “It’s so insulting to groups that aren’t included and I think there are so many intersections between race, sexuality, gender and gun violence and I think it’s important to include all perspectives and stories.”

Holcomb referenced the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando Florida, one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history that targeted an LGBT nightclub, during his speech. The mass shooting in a Charleston church was also included because shooter Dylann Roof targeted black parishioners in South Carolina.

“If we really are talking about a safe school community that includes all students, not just the innocent suburban victims that are likened in most school shooting,” said Holcomb. “I think it’s important that we make sure not just one narrative gets media attention.”

Breedy agrees. Like Brighton, students at her school focused on all forms of gun violence too, particularly street gun violence.

“I live in the city and I always have lived in the city, so guns have always affected my life,” she said. “Like it’s stuff like I can’t walk down the street without my parents being scared that something is going to happen.”

Students there were invited to bring in photos of loved ones they lost to gun violence and stick them on their posters.

It’s not the last demonstration either. On Saturday, March 24, students from across the county will gather in downtown’s Washington Square Park to protest gun violence again.  And the "March for Our Lives" rally in Washington on the 24th is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people.