Evanston RoundTable, March 22, 2018
Chanting “hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go,” thousands of Evanston Township High School students on March 14 joined the nationwide student walkout for stronger gun laws.
The morning rally, held at Lazier Field, filled the stadium’s west stands to overflowing. A school official estimated almost all the school’s 3,500 students attended.
“Students were given a choice whether to attend,” said Emma Stein, a senior and the rally’s chief organizer. “It wasn’t a school-sanctioned event but the school helped us. But the vast majority of planning was done by the Student Senate and the school group Students Organized Against Racism.”
“We wanted to keep our students safe as they engage in free speech,” said ETHS Principal and District 202 Assistant Superintendent Marcus Campbell. “We are happy that they are speaking up on the issues that matter to them.”
Emma, who is a senior and president of the Student Senate, was the first of several students to speak. “Today our voices ring out in solidarity with the youth of America,” she said. “Our voices mourn, and our voices demand change. Our voices ring out for Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Stonemason Douglas and so many more. Our voices ring out for Danae Coleman, Benjamin Mandujano Bradford, Yakez Semark, Kaylyn Pryor.”
She was followed by Liana Wallace, a junior, whose speech “See Something, Say Something,” was delivered with a passionate fervor that alternately stunned and fired up the crowd. (Her speech is reprinted at left.)
The next speaker, Ari Badr, delivered a stinging rebuke of America’s gun culture, “Our country dismisses people of color as criminals and terrorists and at the same time defends weapons of terror,” he said. “The U.S. disregards real people with heartbeats and brains for cold metal weapons they don’t need.”
Senior Genevieve Lindley noted that ETHS seniors were born in 1999, the same year of the Columbine shootings. “In the 19 years since then, the 19 years within which we have all grown to be the young adults standing here, there have been more than 25 massacres in elementary, middle and high schools all around the country. “
The next speaker, Sofia Garcia, a senior, urged students to take action, and concluded by quoting her dad, who said, “‘Sofia, you can’t even walk into a bar but you can get a gun on your lunch break.’ That is the harsh reality in the United States because for some people their right to own and carry a gun is more important than our safety and our life. So I’m pleading with you all to please take action, call your reps, your senators, and anyone who you think will fight for us and demand some action…Enough is enough.”
Emma concluded by urging students to “take this moment into the rest of your life. Hold this sense of unity, of empowerment, of whatever you may need in the future. Take this moment into voting booths. Take this momentum, this energy, that I can feel buzzing around the stadium, into further activism…Take control of your voice.”