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Our voices fill the silences

Photo by Julia Flaherty

After an evacuation drill, students from Orange County School of the Arts prepared themselves for the nation-wide school walkout. While some students returned to class, most peacefully made their way toward 10th street, which was already crowded with those willing to protest. Chants rang out, signs were held up, hands were written on and faces were painted; the street was dotted with shades of orange, which students wore to commemorate the 17 who had died in the Parkland shooting just a month before.

As the 17 respectful minutes went by, students turned their heads to those giving speeches. The moving words of the students brought many to tears and evoked others to hug those next to them, regardless if they knew them. We were then told to hold hands, which created the most powerful connection between students I have ever felt before. In those minutes, we gave a voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves.

There were many reasons students had decided to participate in the walkout. Isabel Zweig, a junior at OCSA, who took her part in leading many of the chants, said, “I walked out because I wanted to help this generation get across a message to the government. We may not be able to vote yet, but we are the ones being shot at…We are angry, we are powerful, we want change and we’re coming for you [the government].”

Anger evoked many students to walk out. Sofia T-H, a senior attending The Bush School in Seattle, commented her reason for walking out: “…because I’m pissed off. It feels like no matter what we do, nothing gets done… but it felt important to be out there. I think it sent an incredibly powerful message: our generation isn’t going to take this sh*t, we’re standing up for ourselves.”

Students were able to use their anger peacefully during this protest. The call to arms was made very clear because of the passion they brought with them.

Many of these walkouts, but not all, were school approved. Students were granted 17 minutes without getting unauthorized tardiness or truancies. Some students, like Zweig, felt that this took away some of the power that the walkout was supposed to ignite. While it felt good to know that admin was behind us, the rigid organization made some feel it gave the notion that it was an “assembly” rather than a protest.

As students, we were not going to let our power be left behind. In the case of OCSA, after the 17 minutes concluded, admin asked that all participants return to class. However, instead of leaving, almost all students sat down in refusal, pushing the walkout 10 more minutes. Zweig said, “That was the best and most powerful part of our walkout, because it was the point where we were in control of our message, and we posed an actual threat. That’s how we gain power, and that’s how we spread our message.”

While exercising our first amendment right, students used this walkout to show those of higher power that they have a voice, and we’re not afraid to use it. Whether it’s to try to end school shootings, push for stronger gun laws or just to pay respects to those who have died, the walkout shows that we ’re aware of these issues, and we’re going to put an end to them. Change may occur slowly over time, but this one walkout has sparked the attention of many. With more on its way, our message continues to be pushed, and eventually, it will be impossible to ignore.

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