‘No more silence:’ Area students demand gun control—again

Area students gather at the Downtown Mall's Freedom of Speech Wall during the National School Walkout. Area students gather at the Downtown Mall’s Freedom of Speech Wall during the National School Walkout.

“Are we next?”

That was the question on the minds and T-shirts of several local students who participated in today’s National School Walkout, on the anniversary of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School that left 15 people dead.

More than 100 students from Charlottesville, Albemarle and Monticello high schools, Tandem Friends School and the Village School met on the Downtown Mall to protest gun violence in schools and advocate for stricter firearm laws.

The students amassed at the Freedom of Speech Wall, where they began chalking messages such as “Make schools safe again,” “No more silence,” “Time’s up” and “Fuck the NRA.”

And when a man in camouflage pants cupped his hands around his mouth and began chanting, “Second Amendment!” at the group, they collectively countered with, “Kids before guns.”

CHS seniors Helen Gehle and Kelly Kossi helped organize the event as a project in their Becoming a Global Citizen class, in which students are encouraged to take political action.

“This is another milestone,” said Kossi, who also attended the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. “We want to feel safer in our schools.”

Out of habit, Kossi checks her classroom doors at the beginning of each class to make sure they’re locked——a reality she wishes didn’t have to exist. While she won’t be voting in the next election, Gehle will, and according to the new voter, young people are on a mission to elect representatives with whom they see eye to eye.

“Tom Garrett is not someone who represents us,” she said, denouncing the funding the 5th District Congressman has received from the NRA, his vote to allow concealed carrying without a permit and support of other pro-gun laws.

She’s not the only one hoping to unseat him. As the CHS students marched from their Melbourne Road high school to the Downtown Mall, they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Tom Garrett has got to go.”

Gehle urges voters to attend the Charlottesville Democrats’ 5th District caucus at Burley Middle School tomorrow, for which check-in starts at 1:15pm.

And when students eventually began marching around the mall, members of a group from MHS proudly hoisted their handmade signs above their heads. One said, “Bullets are not school supplies.” And another: “We should be writing papers, not eulogies.”

Monticello High School students were some of the first to arrive on the Downtown Mall during the National School Walkout.