BY ELLAH FOSTER
At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, thousands of students across the nation walked out of class in protest of gun violence and the most recent mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students at Carmel High were no different.
CHS seniors Gianluca Douros and Madi Brothers were primary organizers for the event, planning for protesters to meet in the school parking lot and march to Devendorf Park, the hub of downtown Carmel. After the administration became aware that the day was forecast for pouring rain, Brothers explains how the protest was moved to the CHS football field.
“My original plan was to have it on the football field for 17 minutes, but Gianluca was planning to go down to the park,” Brothers explains. “So in the end we did both, which was great.”
After 17 minutes on the field, with some sharing a microphone to talk to the crowd, protesters were encouraged by student speakers to march off campus. While most of the crowd then walked down to the park, there were a handful of students that stayed on campus and went back to class.
“I only participated in the 17 minutes of the walkout because of the rain,” junior Hailey Dickens says. “Also, I knew I had a game that day and was worried if I missed a lot of class I wouldn’t be able to play.”
Roughly 150 students marched to the park, past police cars on the edge of campus. The crowd attracted honks and gestures from passing cars, and a number of Carmel residents also marched with students to show their support.
CHS Principal Rick Lopez contacted multiple sources in advance to ensure the safety of all students.
“We spoke to some of the student leaders about their plans and wanted to know if they were leaving campus,” Lopez notes. “My encouragement was to plan something that kept safety as the key.”
CHS administrators called California Highway Patrol, district officials and the Carmel police to inform them of the students’ plans. As teen protesters made their way downtown, police cars were stationed at the park as well.
Carmel resident Kat Moore joined the protest and encouraged students to fight for their right for a safe environment.
“I happened to be downtown,” Moore says. “I noticed all the students marching in the pouring rain, and I thought, ‘That must be the Carmel kids because nobody else would be walking around in the rain unless it was for an important cause.’ So I pulled over and cheered everyone on in support of what they were doing.”
“There was a lot of encouragement from the staff,” Brothers notes. “Most of the teachers that I heard about were letting us leave class. A lot didn’t even mark us truant.”
Roughly half of science teacher Curtis Smith’s class walked out of his third period on March 14, yet the number of students that left each class greatly varied: In some rooms the majority of the class walked out, while in others it was only one or two individuals.
“It’s the students constitutional right to do that, so I didn’t have a problem,” Smith says. “As long as their parents were aware and they were safe, I’m in support.”
As an administrator, Lopez explains how he had to walk the line of neutrality, while supporting the students who participated in the walkout as well as following protocol and suggesting safer alternatives.
While the march was primarily centered around honoring those who were killed in the Parkland shooting, many students took it as an opportunity to voice their opinions on gun control.
Chants of “End the silence, stop gun violence,” rang through the crowd. Many students brought signs such as “THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS DON’T SAVE LIVES,” “HEY NRA, how many KIDS have you KILLED today?” and “Am I next?”
Students and supporters took time with everyone gathered on the grass to advocate their message about the importance of the walkout; nearly every sentence spoken resulted in loud cheers from the crowd of hundreds.
Student protesters also made 17 laps around the park before returning to school, in remembrance and recognition to the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Whether the walkout will lead to significant changes to gun control, students agree that it brought together the student community more than ever before. Sophomore Alex Faxon says that gun violence is an issue that people need to talk about and that the walkout may have stirred up that conversation between students.
“At the very least, the walkout unified the school when I don’t think we’re very cohesive most of the time,” Brothers adds. “We got to spread a message. I think we made an impact on the community too.”
Lopez reports that most, if not all, of the students that participated in the march to Devendorf Park returned to campus after the protest.