Local high school students join protest at White House demanding gun control
Hundreds of County high school students walked out of class at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday en route to the U.S. Capitol, where they rallied in favor of gun control.
After walking to the nearest Metro Station, classmates came together at Union Station to show their outrage against the National Rifle Association and to demand something be done to stop school shootings.
At Montgomery Blair, students said that while school officials did not sanction the protest, they took no action to stop it.
As the students streamed out of the school, Assistant Principal Dirk Cauley addressed them through a megaphone, warning them to follow their police escort and stay on the sidewalks.
Besides Blair, high school students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Richard Montgomery, Northwood, Einstein, Wootton, Oneness Family Montessori School in Kensington among others marched up First Street to the Capitol, where they heard short speeches by Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-8th District) and Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.
“It’s ridiculous how they are not making this into a big enough deal,” Blair sophomore Griffith Wacht said. “We are doing this to show them they can’t get away with it,” he said, referring to Congressional inaction concerning gun control.
Blair junior Emma Markus said the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., “is really upsetting. Students are afraid to sit close to the door. Students are afraid to sit with their back to the door. That’s just wrong.”
While many students talked about being scared, the overall mood of the morning protest was upbeat. Students chanted such slogans as, “Hey, hey NRA. You can’t beat the PTA” and “How many bodies? How much blood?” and “Enough is Enough.”
Bernadette Hargrobe, a Blair sophomore, said school shootings were “getting out of control. We need common sense gun control.”
Hargrobe brought a note from her parents excusing her from school and handed in all her homework before leaving the building. “I value my education,” she said, but added that the protest was worth missing a day of school.
Raskin greeted the students at the Capitol, telling them, “I am with you 100 percent.”
“America’s students are leading the revolution,” Raskin said, as they did when they protested segregation and the Vietnam War. “Young people have always stood up to the challenges in America when no one else would.”
He urged the students to keep protesting. “They think this is a flash in the pan, they don’t think you are serious that you just wanted to get out of class,” Raskin said to the cheering crowd. “Now another generation rises up.”
Bethesda-Chevy Chase junior Paloma Delgado said she walked out “to advocate for our rights,” and called the recent rash of shootings “a real epidemic.”
Amanda Roche, who also is a junior at B-CC, said, “Guns have changed, but the laws haven’t.”
Daniel Gelillo, a senior at Richard Montgomery, who organized the event and invited Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence to speak, told the crowd, “We have lost far too many innocent lives. Something has to change.”
He issued a warning to those in power, declaring, “A lot of us are going to be voting age in the 2018 election and 2020 election, so if they don’t want to listen to us now, they are going to pay dearly.”
Pauliukonis told the students “to raise up your voices.”
While the vast majority of the students chatted and chanted with friends, two men sporting the red “Make America Great Again” that have become a symbol of Donald Trump’s presidency got into a heated debate with students from Einstein.
As both sides shouted at each other, with the students in favor of gun control and the MAGA hat wearers against it, one Einstein student grabbed one of the hats and threw it away.