Students Protest at Santa Monica City Hall on Anniversary of Columbine Shooting

Hundreds of middle and high school students, as well as community members, and Santa Monica College students converged on Santa Monica City Hall this Friday, April 20 to protest gun violence. The students gathered at city hall after walking out of their classes beginning at 10 a.m. as part of a national walkout effort, being the 19-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. They later observed 13 seconds of silence in remembrance of the number of victims who were killed in the Columbine shooting.

As they marched to city hall, students held signs such as, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time." They chanted, "We call B.S." and "No more silence, end gun violence." Students whose schools were further away drove to the event.

At least nine schools participated in the protest, including Santa Monica High School, Beverly Hills High School, Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Venice High School, Lincoln Middle School, John Adams Middle School, Archer School for Girls, New Roads Middle School, and University High School. When a group of students from University High School arrived at the protest after walking 3.7 miles from their school, a large roar of welcome erupted from the crowd in front of city hall.

The student protestors had a clear list of demands they were hoping to get from these marches. "We want universal background checks and we want to close things like the private sale loophole and the gun show loophole," said Thomas Koon, a sophomore at Venice High School who led a large group of students to Santa Monica City Hall.

The protest had a festive air, with food trucks, a photo booth, and orange paint to decorate their faces in the color of the national school walkout. But there was also an air of seriousness. Penelope LaPaglia and Ryan Biehl, students from Beverly Hills High School, manned a table piled with voter registration and pre-registration forms as students lined up to fill out the paperwork.

"We have a very small percentage of people in this country who actually do vote," LaPaglia said. "So it's very important to us to get the voter population up so that we can get government officials that we want into power."

At the podium on the city hall steps, student speakers gave passionate speeches about feeling scared of gun violence and anger at ineffective politicians. Flora Chavez, a 21-year old singer from Pico Youth and Family Center, led the crowd in a song in which the chorus was, "Peace, love, unity."

"This event is pulling heartstrings in the best way," said Ana Laura Paiva, a Santa Monica College student who attended the event, and director of student assistance for Associated Students. "We are seeing the next generation of high schoolers be more active in voting, calling out for justice, peace, for better legislation on such an important and absurd matter that affects all of us in one way and every way - gun violence."

Silas Lynch, a sixth grader at Lincoln Middle School, sat with two of his friends near the city hall fountain. "I think it's awesome that so many people support gun control," he said. "With this many people, it could definitely make a difference." Lynch walked out with his classmates despite knowing he would get a truancy and be sent to detention.

"This event is essentially taking March For Our Lives and gun violence and mixing it with a more intersectional focus so we can see how this problem affects many different communities," said Iman Mohammed, a Santa Monica College student who spoke at the event.

As the protest entered its third and final hour, Melanie Porras, a Santa Monica High School student, took the podium. "My call to action is that you, we the people will speak up and speak out about the injustices in our political system," she said, as the crowd cheered. "Get out and register to vote. Register your abuelas, your primas, your homies, and let's make a system that works for everyone. We the youth are the change. We will be seen and we will be heard."

Students from University High School in Los Angeles, California walked out of school on National Walkout Day in commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Video footage by Corsair staff editor, Diana Parra Garcia. Video editing by Corsair contributor, Viktor Falck.