By 11 a.m. Friday, more than 100 students from Salem-Keizer Public Schools and surrounding areas were gathered on the Oregon State Capitol steps.
Some drove, some walked. But all called on elected officials to take action to end gun violence.
Local students — from North Salem, South Salem, Sprague and McKay high schools, among others — joined thousands nationwide as they walked out of their classes and observed a moment of silence to honor the people killed 19 years ago in the Columbine school shooting.
Then they traveled to the Capitol to demand stricter gun laws.
“No one raises a child to die at school,” said Sprague High School junior Elsie Hutchings.
“You weren’t taught to walk so you could run from flying bullets,” she said. “You didn’t learn your numbers so you could identify lockdown levels one, two and three. The alphabet has more letters than ‘N,’ ‘R’ and ‘A.’”
The Friday walkout and march was the third event organized nationally in response to the Parkland, Florida shooting in February.
Thousands of Salem-area students walked out of their classes on March 14 to commemorate the month since Parkland. Another 3,000 people were estimated at the Salem March for Our Lives rally on Saturday, March 24.
According to the national March for Our Lives webpage, students are calling for:
- Universal, comprehensive background checks;
- A digital, searchable database by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives;
- Funds for the Center for Disease Control to research gun violence in America;
- A high-capacity magazine ban;
- An assault weapons ban.
Students gave speeches on the Oregon Capitol steps Friday, then marched around the Capitol Mall. They broke for lunch and planned to return to the Capitol for afternoon activities.
Additional students were expected to come with the BUS Project, an organization that provides transportation so people can better engage in politics. And many planned to speak with legislators during a Town Hall meeting.
Salem-Keizer students were informed beforehand they would be given unexcused absences.
“We weren’t born to die by our desks," Hutchings said. "We were born to bring change to our country by speaking out."
“We were born (as) the generation that will end preventable tragedies like Sandy Hook and Parkland,” she said. “And we can do it together.”
Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745 or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.