Thousands of students across Colorado poured out of their schools Wednesday to protest gun violence and to remember 17 victims of last month’s deadly shooting in Florida. Chalkbeat’s Melanie Asmar walked with students from East High School to the Colorado State Capitol, where Gov. John Hickenlooper and Speaker of the House Cristanta Duran urged them to remain politically active.
The protests took different forms at other schools – and not everyone wanted the event to be political. There were balloon releases, voter registration drives, and public “die-ins” at major intersections. And in one Denver area school district, a surge of threats cast a pall over events.
Here’s a look at #NationalWalkoutDay from around the region.
Students at Skinner Middle School in northwest Denver marched in silent solidarity.
In Colorado, teenagers can register to vote before their 18th birthday.
At schools in the Adams 12 district north of Denver, a big uptick in threats the night before – and a warning letter from the superintendent – led many students to skip school altogether.
Students at McAuliffe International School in northeast Denver spoke with their shirts. Instead of “Thoughts & Prayers,” they asked for “Policy & Change.”
Students at McAuliffe International School made these shirts for today’s student walkouts. The students here are going to make a big heart on the field in just a couple of minutes. They will also read off the names of the Florida students who died one month ago. @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/AS3TZpuFyz— Meghan Lopez (@Meghan_Lopez) March 14, 2018
But their event was not all about politics. They formed a heart with their bodies and read the names of the dead.
At Jefferson Jr./Sr. High School, students promised to work to change school culture.
Students at Jefferson Jr/Sr High School honored the Parkland community with moments of silence and commitments to change the school culture at Jefferson. https://t.co/VLoKEUik1e #NationalWalkoutDay #walkout #ParklandStrong #JeffersonStrong #JeffcoSchools pic.twitter.com/3M6HWz8VC2— Edgewater Echo (@edgewaterecho) March 14, 2018
Many schools released balloons to honor the victims and found other ways to advocate for change.
Our students decided to gather, and walkout together in unity. We released 17 balloons to honor the Florida school shooting victims, and are now returning classrooms to write a note to our policymakers. #MSDstrong #WestyStrong pic.twitter.com/Lt2ZR7QdES— Westminster High School (@Westy_Wolves) March 14, 2018
Unlike some Colorado districts, St. Vrain didn’t officially condone the walkouts, but students at Longmont schools walked out anyway.
Students at Denver’s South High School have been vocal about gun violence. In a recent visit from U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, they rejected the idea that armed teachers would make them safer and demanded that lawmakers do more.
Students from one of Colorado’s KIPP charter schools used their bodies to send a message at a major intersection in west Denver.
Students of color in Denver reminded the public that gun violence is not limited to mass shootings.
Mateo, a senior at STRIVE Prep SMART Academy, says that the conversation on guns in the mainstream is dominated by white people. pic.twitter.com/NOaMm3OKpd— Kevin Beaty (@KevinJBeaty) March 14, 2018
Students aren’t just marching. They’re also writing their representatives. State Rep. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat, tweeted a picture of her inbox full of emails from students.
My email box is full of over 100 emails from students at @WPSNewsNow. Each personally written, each heart felt, each calling for action to end gun violence. To the students your voice is heard, I stand with you. The young people give me hope. #coleg pic.twitter.com/y4oyTAhBEc— Sen. Faith Winter (@FaithWinterCO) March 14, 2018
Colorado carries the legacy of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, where a memorial asks urgently as ever: “How have things changed; what have we learned?”