Hundreds of San Francisco’s students walked out of classrooms across The City on Wednesday to protest lax gun control laws nationally that they say put their lives and those of others at risk.
The mass protest was a gesture of solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a former student killed 14 students and three educators a month ago.
“As students we are a large portion of the population, schools are some of the most populated places that people can be in one location and they are also some of the most targeted,” said
Allen Yesin, a junior at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. “I come to school to be protected by teachers, to feel protected among other students and because of what’s happening, we don’t feel that way anymore.”
Students across the country were urged to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. for a total of 17 minutes, representing the 17 lives that were lost at Parkland. Locally, students from over 15 schools continued the action with a march to City Hall.
Several hundred students, including dozens from the Academy of San Francisco at Mcateer, which shares a campus with RASOTA, rallied Wednesday morning at 555 Portola Dr. ahead of the citywide walkouts, at an event attended by San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and Supervisor Jeff Sheehy as well as San Francisco school officials.
There, students and school officials held a moment of silence in honor of the Parkland victims, and students at booths set up inside of the school’s courtyard recruited their fellow classmates to pre-register to vote.
“It’s a challenging message because people in San Francisco and students don’t get it, they don’t understand why guns need to be a part of their lives and what the fight is in Washington D.C.,” said Farrell, who said that his own two children were participating in walkouts at their elementary schools. “It’s ludicrous to them and unthinkable.”
Academy senior Angel Smith held up an orange sign imprinted with two bold black words: “common sense.”
“I feel that people should just have common sense about stuff that’s going on, really analyze [this issue] and see how it affects other people,” she said, adding that a lockdown at her own school recently forced her to “think about what guns can really do, especially if the wrong people have them.”
Despite strict local and state firearm regulations, gun violence is still very much a reality for many of San Francisco’s students.
“People that I know have friends that have guns,” said Smith, who said that a bullet once struck her home in the Bayview District.
Last month, a student was detained at the Academy after bringing a gun to campus. On March 6, former Academy student Jesus Adolfo Delgado Duarte, a 19-year-old suspect in an armed robbery in the Mission District, was killed by nearly 100 rounds of police gun fire after allegedly initially shooting at police.
“Incidents like what happened to Jesus, makes it feel more real that things like this happen every day,” said Academy senior Pedro Gomez, who knew Duarte.
“There are no reasons why 18-year-olds should have guns,” said Gomez, adding that he hoped the student activism will “at least make it harder for them to purchase guns.”
Morning showers did not deter the students from marching to City Hall, where close to a thousand students congregated for a noon rally, equipped with signs that read “Arms are for hugging” and “What about black and brown kids suffering from gun violence?”
Speaking through a megaphone, Galileo High School senior Emily Montiel said that addressing police brutality must be part of the larger gun control conversation.
“As we saw on March 6, a young life was lost, and police are not trained to detain, they are taught to kill,” she said. “That needs to change, because when police come around we don’t feel safe, we feel anxious.”
Leadership High School senior Daniel Munoz on Wednesday mourned the recent loss of a friend due to gun violence.
“It just saddens me that he is not here today with us because of the laws that we’ve got,” said Munoz. “Before I was born, the laws should have been changed.”
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen told the students gathered at City Hall that she hoped that “your children don’t have to fight this fight.”
Quoting a Tweet from author and feminist Roxane Gay, Cohen pointed to a “difference in perception between the Parkland shooting survivors and the many Black Lives youth activists.”
“If you are black and you’re brown, you have been under attack,” said Cohen, adding that there is room “for all of us in this movement.”
“This is not a black or white issue, this is a youth issue,” she said.
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