By Selina Han and Bastian Mendez
Students gathered by the Pancake yesterday as part of a national school walkout affiliated with the Women’s March organizers. The event’s goal was to protest inaction from lawmakers on gun control legislation and to honor the 17 victims of the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) released an open letter informing students and community members of the upcoming protest. Since then, student activists held meetings to plan the event.
After gathering at the Pancake, the students who planned the walkout gave brief speeches about the victims. An orange balloon was released for each victim after their description and a moment of silence.
“I’m really glad that we actually got people to stay silent as we are high schoolers and tend to be kind of loud in situations,” organizer junior Esperanza Gomez said. “I’m really glad that everyone stood there in silence and actually thought about the lives that were lost and how unnecessary this [shooting] was. The victims were stripped of so many opportunities and all of their goals for the future.”
The student leaders encouraged attendees to wear the color orange to the walkout to show solidarity. Handmade signs and orange ribbons were distributed to the crowd before the speeches began. The signs contained messages that condemned gun violence and called for student action.
“I want to say that more than 200 [students attended],” organizer senior Patricia Escamilla said. “The Pancake was full, as well as the quad. People were standing over the other students.”
During lunch, the students partnered with the Associated Student Body (ASB) to host an open mic at the Pancake. Many of the speeches and poems revolved around voting, gun violence, and gun law reform.
“A lot of us can’t vote right now, but those that can and will, I urge you to vote for gun control,” senior Sydney Tran said in her speech. “We all know that what happened in Florida was a tragedy, but the real tragedy is if we don’t take initiative.”
In addition to the open mic, there were banners that students could write on, one of which included “#SGHasAVoice,” a hashtag designated by the student organizers, and another where students could write messages to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Ca).
“We are going to start taking action,” Gomez said. “Although it’s not that big, we are going to start asking people to make at least five friends so we could be helping each other first. We want to have a healthier community.”
While many students felt empowered by the walkout, some felt that the event was ineffective.
“I feel like we should have taken a more direct stance,” junior Wendy Zamora said. “The city hall’s right here, we could’ve [walked out] there. I feel like that would’ve been more effective—to just approach government directly.”
Other students did not participate in the walkout. Some cited academic reasons.
“I couldn’t go because I had a trigonometry test,” junior Bryan Lam said. “I did want to go but I didn’t want my grade to be affected by a 17 minute walkout. So, I went to the open mic during lunch to take pictures.”
There were student-led meetings held in A203 during lunch and on Monday, a meeting at Almansor Park where students gathered and created the signs that were distributed during the walkout.
“I feel like students should have a voice in what democracy has to offer,” junior Jonathan Sycip said. “It’s not just the adults participating—it’s more about everything in general. Even though we are underage and might not represent older people’s prospects, we are the next generation and we should be responsible for taking care of what happens in the future.”
Several student activists who participated urged the school and AUSD to take actions to ensure the safety of those on campus.
“I think they should put in a PA [Public Announcement] system because that way, it would make it easier for us to know if there is a shooting going on or not,” organizer senior Claudia Hernandez said. “I know for fire drills, oftentimes we [ask] ‘Is it real?’ ‘Is it not real?’ and even teachers don’t know what’s going on. If we have a PA system, we can know for sure and just walk out without questioning it.”
Many students also felt that it was important to have their voices heard in order to be able to successfully effect change.
“People in Parkland were students and teachers,” organizer senior Miriam Flores said. “This school—the majority of it is us. We are the voice of this school, so if we don’t show everyone that we have a voice and that we care about this, then nothing is going to change and no one is going to notice. It is up to us to actually unite and showcase what we can do and what we want to change.”