Falmouth students: ‘We refuse to be silenced’ about gun violence

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FALMOUTH — About 100 students gathered outside Falmouth High School Thursday, the day after a nationwide school walkout protesting gun violence saw tens of thousands of kids leave class.

Like many schools in Maine, Falmouth High School was closed Wednesday, March 14, because of a major snowstorm.

But the delay didn’t damper the enthusiasm of the students, who left class at 10 a.m. to listen to speeches and hold a moment of silence in honor of the 17 students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

Like their counterparts across the nation, the Falmouth students carried signs saying, “Enough is Enough,” “We Call BS” and “Never Again.” Along with the signs, student organizers also dressed in black and carried 17 white carnations.

The National School Walkout was organized by the Youth Empower arm of the Women’s March and was held in response to yet another mass shooting at a U.S. school.

The goal was to put pressure on lawmakers to take action on gun control and to make schools safe for students and teachers, according to the official school walkout website.

An Associated Press story, published in the March 14 issue of the Portland Press Herald, said the National School Walkout was “without a doubt the largest protest led by high school students in the history of the U.S.”

In Falmouth, organizers of the walkout said they took the lead because they’re angry that their peers are being killed in school and yet nothing’s being done.

“I’m just really angry and tired of hearing about kids dying,” Maya Miller-Edwards said following the walkout. Abbie Pitre, another student organizer, said “Our lives are the ones in danger and the adults aren’t doing anything so we need to voice our opinion.”

“We should be living our lives and not leaving school fighting to keep our schools and communities safe from gun violence. Our voices need to be heard,” Kayla Warner, another student organizer said during her speech Thursday.

“We are fighting for our right to live (and asking our legislators) to put children’s lives before guns and money,” she added, in a direct reference to the National Rifle Association and its broad lobbying power. “The more we talk the more progress we can make.”

In her speech, Miller-Edwards said she was in seventh grade when 26 children and teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

She remembered crying herself to sleep “because I didn’t know if that could happen to me.” Now, Miller-Edwards said, she sometimes sits in class wondering where she would hide or what she would do if a shooter entered the school.

“All of these deaths and no action,” she said in reference to the more than 100 people killed in mass shootings at schools since the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. “This time with Parkland, we’re saying never again.”

Abbie Pitre, another student organizer, said in her speech that it’s time for people to use their anger over mass shootings to “fuel change.” If lawmakers won’t pass gun control measures, she said, “vote them out.”

“There is a prevalent and destructive gun issue” in this country, Pitre added, while noting that the assault rifle the shooter in Parkland used was one “made for killing and war.”

“This is not right. This should not be our fight, but it is,” Maria Kuhn, another student organizer said. “(We’re the ones) with the nightmares about being gunned down in math class. Don’t tell me that gun control doesn’t work. Don’t tell me it doesn’t save lives.”

She then used the example of the attempt by a passenger to use a shoe bomb to bring down a domestic airplane in 2001.

“There was one attempt and once was enough that we all have to take our shoes off at the airport,” Kuhn said. “So don’t tell me money isn’t valued over children’s lives.”

She then went on to urge her fellow students to remain “educated, energized and persistent.”

The most important step they can take, she said, is to register to vote and to put people in office willing to pass gun control measures.

“We refuse to be silenced,” Kuhn said. “We will not stop until we are safe.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

About 100 students protested gun violence during a school walkout held Thursday morning at Falmouth High School. They carried signs, which read, “We Call BS,” and “Enough is Enough.”

Three of the students who helped to organize the school walkout at Falmouth High School. From left are Abbie Pitre, Maria Kuhn and Maya Miller-Edwards. “We won’t be silenced” Pitre told her fellow students.

More student-made signs at the Falmouth High School walkout.