Hundreds of Bloomington students staged school walkouts April 20 as part of a national movement to remember gun violence victims.
The date, which was chosen in February after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. Students across the country hope no more dates become known for acts of gun violence.
“Things matter when we decide they do,” said Tamara Brown, a Bloomington High School North senior.
However, before the 10 a.m. national walkouts began, another shooting occurred at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida. Although no one died at the school, one student was reported injured. According to CNN, Forest High students’ walkout plans were canceled.
Students gathered at the Monroe County Courthouse and passed around a megaphone, shouting their names and the reasons why they walked out of their school.
For the students who didn’t graduate, they said. For the siblings who lost siblings.
For the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, "who died on the day of love."
Brown said the walkout shows students are ready to see a change and believe the issue of gun violence will bring young people to the polls to vote in November midterm elections.
“We’re sick and tired of losing people," Brown said. "No more.”
Although North students were the first to arrive, people from other schools continued to join the crowd. Around 100 Bloomington High School South students walked almost two miles from their classrooms to the courthouse. Middle school and elementary school students, all the way down to the fifth grade, also came in groups.
Before the walkout, students at North were able to attend a school-sponsored silent walk around their track. Posters on the fence showed the 17 victims of Stoneman Douglas. Students could also sign a banner for victims of gun violence.
As they walked out, some raised their hands in the air with the words “don’t shoot” written in black across their palms. Many wore orange, which has become the anti-gun violence color, or shirts from the March for Our Lives movement.
Students had tied price tags with the number $2.31 to their wrists or belt loops to represent how much money state politicians such as Sen. Todd Young have been given by the NRA divided by the number of high school students in Indiana. The number came from the March for Our Lives website.
"I think it gives a personal impact on how our state is viewed," said junior Anne Sattler, who distributed the tags.
Even the youngest students showed leadership during the walkout.
As a remembrance of the Columbine High School shooting, 13 students lay on the ground in front of the courthouse to stage a die-in that lasted 13 minutes. Six of the participants were University Elementary School students, and seven were students from other schools.
They all held pieces of white paper in front of their faces, each one with a different Columbine victim's name written in orange marker.
Poer read the names of the Columbine victims, and the crowd fell quiet for a minute-and-a-half-long moment of silence.
Ingrid Pendergast, 12, organized the die-in as part of a project she is doing on gun violence in schools.
The University Elementary sixth grader said this was her way of showing concern for the safety of the people in her life, including her 8-year-old brother Bodhi Ksander, who is in the second grade. He was also there to protest.
“I want us and him and me and my other brother to all feel safe while I’m at school,” Pendergast said.
Pendergast started a group chat and worked on finding people to help her until the night before the walkout, she said.
Because she will still be in school for many years, Pendergast said it is important for her and others to take action on school safety.
“Try to do anything that would help, and don’t expect someone else to make the change for you,” Pendergast said.
After the die-in, the crowd moved from the courthouse down the road to the stage at Waldron Hill Buskirk Park, where they listened to speeches and performances.
Students sang in remembrance of those who have been lost or talked about their own experiences with gun violence.
County Commissioner Amanda Barge presented a proclamation that declared the day as Monroe County School Walkout Day.
During a short intermission between acts, crowd members raised their signs in the air so student organizers onstage could take photos.
In the background, Andra Day’s “Rise Up” played through the speakers.
The students started to sing, some latching arms and swaying back and forth.
“And we'll rise up
Rise like the waves
We'll rise up
In spite of the ache
We'll rise up
And we'll do it a thousand times again.”
When the song was over, the students threw their fists up next to the signs waving in the air.
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