East High students march against gun violence in wake of Luis Garcia’s death

Students dressed in red gather in front of the Colorado State Capitol. There’s a large crowd of young people. Classical columns rise before them. One sign held aloft reads “Luis Garcia #11.”
East High students observed 11 seconds of silence in front of the Colorado State Capitol in memory of Luis Garcia, a 16-year-old student who died after being shot outside the school last month. (Erica Meltzer / Chalkbeat)

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Several hundred students from East High School chanted “No more silence! End gun violence!” as they marched to the Colorado State Capitol Friday to tell lawmakers to do more to restrict access to guns.

Eighteen days had passed since Luis Garcia was shot just outside the school, and two since the 16-year-old succumbed to his injuries. Students held signs bearing his name and No. 11, the number he wore on the soccer field. They observed 11 seconds of silence in his memory.

Clayton Thomas, who played soccer with Luis, recalled how hard-working Luis was, a quality family members described as well. At the end of each practice, players could stay an extra 15 minutes to practice independently. Luis would stay 30 minutes, Clayton said.

“What I wouldn’t give for an extra 15 minutes with Luis right now,” Clayton said. 

East High Students Demand Action, a group that advocates for gun control, organized the rally to coincide with an advocacy day at the Capitol in support of a package of gun control bills. Democrats want to add a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases, prevent people younger than 21 from purchasing guns, and expand who can seek to remove guns from an individual under Colorado’s “red flag” law. 

The push for new state gun laws comes in the wake of November’s mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, as well as rising gun violence in Denver and around the region. 

Luis Garcia was shot outside East High on the afternoon of Feb. 13. Denver police took two other Denver Public Schools students into custody later that afternoon on other charges. So far, they have not been charged in the shooting. 

Luis was the second student shot near the 2,600-student school this academic year. East High also was the target of a swatting hoax in September that led to a lockdown and evacuation that left students and faculty rattled. 

In the last week, more than a dozen Colorado schools have been the target of swatting hoaxes

Organizers canceled a forum on gun violence with local elected officials Wednesday after news spread of Luis’ death.

Fabian Morris, a sophomore at East, said he didn’t know Luis well, but he’s known other people who were shot and wanted to support the cause.

“I used to think school was one of the safest places, but now I feel uneasy,” he said. 

Celes Bufford, a senior and member of the East student council, echoed the sentiment.

“We’re down here because we’re tired,” she said. “There should be no reason that guns are more important than students, or people in general. No one feels safe.”

Ryan Lo, a junior at East, said he felt numb about the shooting until students gathered outside East to lay flowers in Luis’ memory. That’s when the loss hit home. Ryan noted that the same day Luis was shot, a gunman killed three people at Michigan State University. 

Zach Fields, also a junior at East, said the frequency of gun violence makes it hard to comprehend.

“It doesn’t even feel real,” he said. “It feels like a movie.”

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at emeltzer@chalkbeat.org.

East High students marched to the Colorado State Capitol Friday to join a day of advocacy for gun control legislation. (Erica Meltzer / Chalkbeat)
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