BEND, OR -- High school students across Central Oregon took park in a national walkout at 10 a.m Wednesday, to mark the one-month anniversary of the Florida school shooting.
At Bend Senior High, hundreds of kids gathered peacefully in the commons to speak against gun violence and call on lawmakers to take action. "There can be no peace in the United States until our leaders decide that protecting its children is more important than protecting its guns. There can be no justice until our nation realizes that our lives are more valuable than any of the NRA’s money," said one student. "Our leaders have tried to pacify us; tried to discount our voices because we are children. But, it is precisely because we are children, because it is our deaths gracing the news every week, that we can’t let ourselves be pacified. We are the artists, the scientists, the engineers, the doctors and the teachers – we will raise their grandchildren, and try to create a world we’d hoped they would create for us. We are here; we are the future. You have to protect us, because without us, there is no future," she went on to say, "Let children be children; let us live our lives and seek our education without fear of a bullet to the head."
Several students carried signs reading things like, "It's not right or left; it's life or death." Another speaker said, "Nobody should ever be afraid to enter a school. Nobody should accept increased police presence and increased fear as the new normal. Columbine was not normal; Sandy Hook was not normal; the 17 dead kids in Parkland, Florida are not our new normal." Many of the speakers ended their short speeches with "Enough is enough." After reading off the names of the 17 killed a month ago, the crowd observed a moment of silence before returning to class.
Bend High Senior Lauren Hough was one of the main organizers of the event. She says she was surprised by how administrators reacted, "Our Principal, Mr. Reese, has been extremely supportive. And then, at a district level, I actually was at the school board meeting, and we’ve gotten lots of support from Shay Mikalson, as well as other board members." Alandra Johnson, with Bend-La Pine Schools, says teachers kept classes on schedule for students not participating in the walkout, while adults on prep period helped supervise the rally, "We wanted to provide a safe environment for the students could meet where we could provide some supervision while still allowing them to express their free speech." Other districts told students protest activities could not take place on school property.
Police increased their presence at all Bend schools during the walkout, including at Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades. For the most part, local protests were peaceful. In Redmond, a group of about 50 Redmond Proficiency Academy high school students marched to City Hall (right) and stood across the street, in silence, for 17 minutes, before returning to class.