More than nine months before the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, ignited student protests across the country, a group of Indianapolis teens saw the cruel cost of street gun violence. And they began a campaign for peace.
For students at Warren Central High School, the deadly consequences of gun violence touched their lives last spring, when two of their classmates were killed in a shooting on the city’s west side.
“It was like, no one could believe it,” said Ramatou Soumare, 17, a senior. “People were always crying. … The classes were just, morose. … It was a really sad time.”
The tragedy inspired students from the school to start We LIVE, a group dedicated to ending street violence. Now, they are part of a national movement.
Because Warren Central administrators are concerned about safety, We LIVE members do not plan on walking out of school Wednesday as part of a national protest on the one-month anniversary of Parkland, said Soumare. But the school will allow students to walk out of their classrooms, and there will be a moment of silence, a choir performance about social justice, and a panel discussion.
The group is sponsoring a rally against gun violence that leaders expect to draw thousands of people on March 24 at 11 a.m. at the Indiana Statehouse.
While students across the country are protesting gun violence, the dangers are different for teens in high crime areas. In addition to worrying about school shootings, they face the constant threat of street violence. In Indianapolis, homicides reached an all time high in 2017.
Because of that, it can be concerning to see comparatively rare but deadly school shootings getting so much attention, said senior Brandon Warren, 18, who founded We LIVE.
“I don’t want the school shootings to overshadow the youth violence shootings that happen every day,” he said.
But, ultimately, Warren said that his group shares the same priorities as the students from Parkland — increasing gun control and reducing gun violence. “This is something we need to focus on as a country,” he said.
Soumare, who is vice-president of We LIVE, said that she is not concerned about whether it is suburban teens who jump started the national conversation because if students are successful at pressuring politicians, there will be stricter gun laws.
“I think the students at Parkland who have started this movement, they have inspired people, and they have opened other people’s eyes,” Soumare said. “It’s starting to make changes, and I am glad to be a part of it.”