story by Angie Tait
Redondo Union joined hundreds of other high schools across the country on March 14 as their students walked out in protest of gun violence.
In honor of the 17 students and staff who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida one month earlier, an estimated 600 RUHS students gathered for 17 minutes at the corner of PCH and Diamond at 10 am.
“It was the right amount of energy combined with orderly; everyone was involved, and we had to give very few reminders of where to stand. We have to do a balancing act of empowering students to express their freedoms of speech and assembly, but also keep safety in mind at all times,” Brandt said.
Although the event was initially organized to honor the Parkland victims, some students took the opportunity to call attention to the lack of action by Congress to prevent future gun violence.
“It was not supposed to be a political event, it was supposed to be about being supportive of the families and the loved ones of those 17 victims. I was marching for the 17 lives taken in Florida, but I was also marching for more common sense gun laws,” senior Maddie Marcon said.
"I think the students did a fantastic job, I was really proud of them. There’s a lot of traffic on PCH, and it’s a double-edged sword, because in these moments we want our students to be seen, but we also had a few police officers around to make sure everyone felt safe."
Marcon was one of many students who worked with school administration to ensure that students were aware of the event, as well as the conditions of participating.
“I probably met with two or three students that came to my office to discuss our expectations, student safety, and freedom of speech; I had the same conversations over email with more students,” principal Jens Brandt said. “We wanted to ensure that people who were rightfully passionate about this cause were involved, and also to ensure that we weren’t disrupting the school day for teachers and students.”
During the walkout, many students held signs and chanted lines like “Not one more” and “Enough is enough.” Some students also wore orange, the official color of the gun violence protest movement ever since the 2013 shooting of a 15-year-old girl in Chicago, Illinois.
Although students and parents were feeling “empowered” on the corner, especially whenever the occasional car on PCH honked at the crowd, the group was quick to head back to class once the designated 17 minutes were over.
“It was the right amount of energy combined with order; everyone was involved, and we had to give very few reminders of where to stand. We have to do a balancing act of empowering students to express their freedoms of speech and assembly, but also keep safety in mind at all times,” Brandt said.
Some students were upset by the fact that the school gave tardies to students who attended the entire rally, however this was a policy-based matter rather than a school decision.
“It is required by education code to mark students appropriately. We can actually get into a lot of trouble with the state if we mark students present when they’re not really present, or vice versa,” Brandt said.
Brandt also noted the tardiness policy as “a good way to screen students,” in terms of ensuring that students who participated in the walkout weren’t simply using it to leave class.
“If we told all 3,000 students that they didn’t have to worry about going to third period on time, it would cause chaos,” Brandt said. “Sure, the 600 students who walked out would still go to the street corner, but what would we do with the other 2,400 students that will just go to class when they feel like it? That’s not fair to teachers that teach during third period, and it’s also not safe for our campus in terms of people just wandering around with unstructured time.”
Why are you here?
Hailey Williams, senior
"We’re here because nobody should be afraid to go to school. It’s ridiculous that it’s even gotten to the point where guns are more valued than children’s lives."
Gabe Le Neveu, junior
"I think it’s really important that we stand up for something when it’s so easy, and I think it’s unfair for anyone to not be able to do this. To the government, I think they need to take into account how much has happened. I think it’s important to acknowledge issues and attack them directly, so if there’s an issue with guns, get rid of the guns that are making these deaths happen."
Susan Graven, parent
"We’re here to support the students who can finally maybe make a difference with the NRA. We are not happy with the government right now; we’re looking for a change that’s more progressive, and wishing that people would be more open-minded."
Alexander Clarke, junior
“Obviously something isn’t working since nothing is happening. Nothing seems like it will happen because Republicans are fundamentally against this because they take the extreme positions that all Democrats want to do is take away guns. No, that isn’t feasible. That isn’t what we’re asking for. We’re asking for common sense gun legislation to stop crazy people from getting guns and mentally ill people from getting guns because it’s not okay. And in addition we want crazy assault weapons not being in the hands of citizens since you don’t need that to hunt deer as the republicans continue to say. It’s just ridiculous and we need to stand up and change.”
Claire Haddad, junior
"Because enough is enough"
While an estimated 600 RUHS students stood on the corner of PCH and Diamond on March 14 to advocate for gun reform, senior Nick Robbins walked alone in protest of potential weapons bans.
With an National Rifle Association (NRA) shirt on and President Donald Trump’s official flag in hand, Robbins silently walked back and forth in front of the crowd during the 17-minute walkout.
“I thought it was important to represent another side to the issue, to represent the conservative point of view, especially considering I was the only one out there. I saw it as my duty to do so,” Robbins said.
According to Robbins, many people in the group yelled and called him names during the rally.
“I had a lot of people screaming at me, not just children but also adults who showed up. They didn’t treat me as respectfully as other students who had walked out,” Robbins said.
Robbins also posted pictures from the event on his Instagram, specifying in his caption that he was open to “civil conversation” to discuss gun control reform. 365 comments were left under the photo, with most people either commenting their respect for Nick’s action, or debating his beliefs in 2nd Amendment rights.
“I’ve been getting support from a lot of people saying that they stand with me and would have stood with me at the walkout, so it would have been nice to see them, but I didn’t have a problem being by myself either,” Robbins said.
Many comments also criticized Robbins of being insensitive towards the Parkland victims, whom the march was supposed to honor. However, Robbins said that when “many turned it political, [he] took action for [his] side.”
“I think it’s very immoral for someone to say that any human being doesn’t care about something like the Parkland, because every person in the country was heartbroken when that massacre happened,” Robbins said.
Despite the mixed reactions, Robbins felt proud to be the “needle in the haystack” during the event, and was glad to show that there’s “always two sides to something.”
“The biggest thing I want people to take away is that you should always research everything before you come to a conclusion and take away from what others say,” Robbins said. “Even though someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about the topic and people involved as much.”