Berkeley High School students staged a walkout to honor victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida and to demand gun reform Wednesday morning.
Despite the rain, hundreds of students gathered outside BHS as part of a nationwide movement by high schoolers to protest gun violence by dedicating 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. BHS students decided to fill these minutes with minute-long speeches about each victim.
Some students delivered their speeches in shouts, inciting angry cheers. Others were tearing up, speaking to a hushed, solemn crowd. Throughout the rally, students huddled together under shared umbrellas as the words of their peers drowned out the sound of the rain.
As the crowd amassed, students held signs with slogans such as “End Gun Violence” and chanted “Enough is enough” and “We are the future leaders; we will bring change.” Students were talking and moving throughout the courtyard when the rally began but grew silent as student leaders talked about the victims, interrupting only to cheer between speakers.
“(The) point of (this) show of activism was to stand in solidarity,” said Sadie Fleig, a BHS sophomore who helped organize the walkout. “We have the power to change things.”
After the rally, the students walked to the football field and arranged themselves into a large peace sign. Unlike most BHS walkouts, this walkout was confined to campus in order to reflect how much gun violence affects schools specifically, according to Annie Fromson-Ho, a member of Berkeley High Students Demand Action and another protest organizer.
Hannah Goldberg is another member of Berkeley High Students Demand Action and also helped organize this walkout. Fromson-Ho, Goldberg and Fleig all said they know people who have been affected by gun violence, and this motivates them to take action to create reform.
“I hope people in power see that we, as people affected by legislation, care and demand change,” Goldberg said.
UC Berkeley students staged a walkout at the same time. About 70 people were in attendance, including law student Emmanuelle Berdugo, who expressed awe for students taking leadership.
“I think the people have to rise to force the hand of our elected officials,” Berdugo said.
The BHS student speeches included a call to action, asking that students vote in upcoming elections. After the walkout, a table was set up to register students to vote in hopes of elevating the voices of young people.
“A lot of us can vote in the next presidential election,” Fromson-Ho said. “We won’t vote for people that don’t protect us and our rights.”