Trying to keep post-Parkland momentum, students again protest gun violence in Philly

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

For the second time in as many months, high school students around the country walked out of school to protest gun violence and call for more gun control.

Friday’s rallies commemorated the 19th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that killed 13 people — perhaps still the most infamous school massacre — and came more than two months after the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida unleashed waves of youth protest.

For many local students, the protests served as a statement of endurance to those who thought their energy would fade.

“You’re going to hear us, and you’re going to make the changes we’re asking you to make,” said Eryn Banton, a student at Cheltenham High School in Montgomery County.

Banton and about 200 of her Cheltenham classmates gathered at Thomas Paine Plaza across from Philadelphia’s City Hall to protest police shootings and other gun violence that they say disproportionately hurts minority communities.

Across the way at City Hall, several hundred students from across the city held a six-minute “die-in” to highlight the fact that a Philadelphian is shot, on average, every six hours. From there, the teenagers marched to Eakins Oval at the northern edge of Center City.

The rally was smaller than the one held on March 14 after the first major student walkout, which drew a thousand students or more. But many of the Friday protesters said it was important to demonstrate their continued interest in change.

“I feel like when we did the first protest, I feel like people took it as a joke,” said Jared McGill, a senior at Academy at Palumbo in South Philadelphia. “If we keep doing it, I feel like they’ll take us more seriously.”

Chants of “books, not bullets” ricocheted off the courtyard walls at City Hall, and students held signs aloft with phrases like “#ENOUGH” and “miss me with that normalization of gun violence.”

Read the rest of this story at WHYY News