PEACE, PASSION: Second demonstration against gun violence at AHS


 Thousands March for Our Lives in Boston

Arlington High School walkout, March 15, 2018. / Vanessa Steck photo
Arlington High School walkout on March 15. / Vanessa Steck photo

Arlington parent Rebecca Riccio has provided information about March for Our Lives Boston (Facebook), set for Saturday, March 24: It stepped off from Madison Park High School, Roxbury, at 11 a.m. The program on the Common began about 2 p.m.

The Globe reported thousands at Common.

Adults are encouraged to support from behind. Students old enough to be on their own are expected to lead the march. The march route and other details are available at www.marchforourlivesboston.com.

Students from Arlington, including those involved in high school walkouts, say they plan to attend.


UPDATED, March 18: The second public demonstration at Arlington High School in eight days opposing gun violence drew hundreds of students and some faculty Thursday, March 15, this time with police presence.

Over 17 peaceful but passionate minutes, a series of students speakers and one faculty member expressed a unified message about what it must feel like to stare down the barrel of a gun at school. The event's minutes represented each of those killed by a teenager in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.

Two of the speakers' comments provided a guide. One, English teacher Rebecca Walsh-Bradley, came to AHS from an upstate New York school where a student with a gun was subdued by a teacher and an assistant principal, who tackled the student.

"The student did not have a assault rifle ... but if he had, the results might have been deadlier," she told the crowd in front of the main entrance of AHS. She added that the teen had legally purchased his gun.

Emphasizing that the issue is a federal matter, she urged all to speak up for gun reform. "We have a choice and a voice," she said.

The other 13 speakers were students, and all were women. One, Sophie Plotkin, delivered thoughtful remarks. Called "an open letter to America's senators," they began: "I know I'm young, and there's a lot I will learn in the coming years, but I already know that it doesn’t matter what my name is -- all that matters is that I am one of the 74.6 million students who have been let down by the system that is supposed to protect us."

Numbers to consider

They continued: "Guns have been shot on school grounds 270 times since the Columbine shooting of 1999. 50 of those shootings were mass murders or attempted mass murders. Since Columbine, 141 students and teachers have been shot dead .... And, in 81 percent of all shootings, someone had prior knowledge of the shooter's intentions."national walkout

She concluded with an appeal that might stand for all who close to demonstrate: "23 Senators received $135,000 in NRA contributions in 2016. How many of them will lose their seats come midterms if they fail to take action now? You do the math: it's time." (Her full comments are reported below.)

As all spoke, high school Principal Matthew Janger was among those in the audience. The Student Council worked with the administration to schedule the event, which was to have been held March 14, a month after killings in Florida, but it was delayed because after 22 inches of snow fell.

Before most spoke, Isa Dray, one of the Student Council organizers, held a moment of silence for all lives lost to gun violence -- a number that includes shooting, suicide and accidents. Silence there was, except for the rat-a-tat-tat of a helicopter's rotors.

Protests, artists

Quote bar, redAHS STUDENT LEADERS EXPRESS AIMS
YourArlington asked four student leaders what they hoped the walkout would accomplish. Their responses:

Laura Kirchner: We want our legislators to know that we’re sick of their inaction in improving our gun laws. Although many high schoolers can’t vote, we can still make our opinions heard. Because we’re united with thousands of other schools across the country, our voices are amplified.

plotkin 90x105Sophie Plotkin: We’ve had enough and we’re making sure that our lawmakers are aware that we won’t rest until they pass common sense gun laws. There are 3.6 million high schoolers, and by acting together to protest, we’re ensuring that our voices cannot be ignored.

Gayatri Sundar RajanGayatri Sundar Rajan: #NeverAgain is more than a slogan; it is a movement. We hope that our walkout is the first step in a journey of change instigated and propelled by students, faculty, and community members. Never again should a student have to go to school in fear.

Isa DrayIsa Dray: It is time for gun reform to be a priority. Many groups have worked hard at this in the past such as Black Lives Matter youth and they have been ignored. Now is the time to build off of their hard work and to work with the preexisting groups to ensure that this is the last school shooting headline. It is time for change, and it is time now. We will not let this movement fade from the press, we will keep raising our voices.


Quote bar, red

The snowfall restricted those present to the pavement and small lot in front of the main entrance. The weather postponed a planned installation of student art on the AHS lawn. Dave Ardito, head of K-12 art for the public schools, said the art would be installed after the weather improves.

Noting the involvement of students who excel in art among the event's leaders, he said, "We encourage kids to be upstanding."

A small contingent from the general public watched. Among them were Selectman Chairman Joseph Curro Jr. and some ministers.
As 17 minutes approached, a student concluded that "this walkout is only a start."

While the visibility event took place at AHS, students also walked out for 17 minutes at Arlington Catholic, Patch reported March 15

A parallel event took place March 15 in Cambridge, where Cambridge Day reported the views of Rindge and Latin students had had not taken part

This is an open letter to America’s senators by Sophie Plotkin

Dear senators,

I know I’m young, and there’s a lot I will learn in the coming years, but I already know that it doesn’t matter what my name is-- all that matters is that I am one of the 74.6 million students who have been let down by the system that is supposed to protect us.

I know I am just one of the millions of students who have grown numb to the movie theater shootings, and the club shootings, and the concert shootings, and the school shootings. I know I am just one of the millions of students who have watched kids our age, kids our siblings’ ages bleed out on Snapchat and on CNN. One of the millions who have seen teachers forced to choose between our lives and their own. One of the millions who stopped flinching when we saw the aftermath of another massacre. One of the millions who ran out of tears. 

We don’t remember a time before practicing lockdowns became a necessity because even as we’ve grown and learned and changed, the story has remained the same:

Someone gets angry. They buy a gun. They buy ammunition. They shoot the gun.People die.
You send your thoughts and your prayers, rinse and repeat, NRA contributions in hand.Enough. 
We will no longer stay silent while you sell our souls for seats in the Senate.

In government class, we learned that politics is a numbers game, so let's talk statistics. Guns have been shot on school grounds 270 times since the Columbine shooting of 1999. 50 of those shootings were mass murders or attempted mass murders. Since Columbine, 141 students and teachers have been shot dead.

That’s 141 lives cut short by a bullet. And, in 81 percent of all shootings, someone had prior knowledge of the shooter’s intentions.
Are you telling us that there wasn’t anything that could’ve been done? That it’s impossible to prevent a shooting that we know is coming?

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the US should have a gun violence rate of less than one death per 100,000 people. Why then, do we have a rate of that is almost five times higher than expected? 

You can’t answer these questions for us because 21 years ago, you passed the Dickey Amendment and made it illegal for the CDC to advocate or promote gun control. Congress may not have banned them from researching gun violence, but you began cutting the exact amount the CDC spent on gun violence research out of the CDC’s budget.

We will not rest until you repeal this archaic amendment. If you truly care about our lives, then the CDC should be allowed to research why there is such a consistent gun problem in America. 

And, if you want to protect us, protect us not by arming our teachers, but by increasing funding for mental health research and social workers. 

Protect us not by selling us bulletproof bags, but by requiring stricter background checks before purchasing guns, and additional checks before buying ammunition. Make it illegal for people under the age of 21, and for people with domestic violence protection orders to buy guns. Ban bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons. 

Your thoughts and prayers won’t stop the next shooting but passing common sense gun control laws will.
Here’s another number: 

23 Senators received $135,000 in NRA contributions in 2016. How many of them will lose their seats come midterms if they fail to take action now

You do the math: it’s time.


Cambridge Day, March 15: As second gun control rally is held outside, some students remain inside with doubts

Globe, March 15, 2018: Mass. students walk out over gun violence; administrators seek balance | Walkouts nationwide
March 4, 2018: #NeverAgain: AHS walkout held -- a day after 35 join Beacon Hill protest
March 7, 2018: Hundreds rally at AHS opposing national gun violence

This news summary was published Friday, March 16, 2018, and updated March 24.