By Ingrid Castro Lara and Elijah King
Riverside students and faculty walked out of school Wednesday to advocate for school safety and gun control.
Participants left class at 10 a.m. and exited the building through the main entrance. They gathered at the football field and stood in silence for six minutes to honor the 17 students killed on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Students could receive disciplinary consequences for their actions, but RHS Activism Club vice president Chalisa Phoomsakha believes the consequences will be minimal if students protest peacefully.
“It is our decision,” she said. “Whatever the consequence is, we’ll just have to go through with it because it is a choice to walkout.”
Phoomsakha also said principal Tonya Williams trusts the activism club members because they have organized walkouts before and they have not turned into chaos.
“As long as we know about the plan, we can assist the leaders with identifying a safe place in or out of the school with proper supervision,” said Williams. “It is important to note that a walk out is not the only form of protest. I support all students in advocating for their beliefs as long as those beliefs do not create a hostile environment for others who may not share that belief.”
The walkout was part of a national response to the Parkland shooting. Schools throughout North Carolina and the United States held similar protests using social media to plan and promote their actions.
The walkout occurred four weeks later. Riverside High School was one of many schools around the country protesting gun rights.
With support of teachers and other RHS staff, students crowded the bleachers at the Lenny Wren Stadium for 17 minutes, hoping their voices will influence stricter gun laws.
“I feel that’s their right! They have the right to protest guns in schools. I just hope it makes a difference,” art teacher Crystal Brown said.
Although Riverside’s Activism Club planned the walk-out for students to raise awareness and to properly memorialize and recognize the lives lost, many students also protested for for stricter gun laws in general. This includes the widely known North Carolina “Open-Carry Law,” which doesn’t require gun owners to have a permit to openly carry a handgun.
Many students also expressed the fear of guns in their own community.
“I don’t think americans should be able to walk into Walmart and be able to buy a gun,” said sophomore grader Hannah Blankenship.
In addition to Wednesday’s walkout, Activism Club members plan to call government representatives to ask for for gun law changes and send letters to the families of victims.