Students Walk Out in Wake of Gun Violence, Again

Protest occurs in response to mass shooting at a Nashville school


Josh Levin

Student leaders Christian Holt, Oli Graves, Julia Loveman, Leah Reymann, Zara Troupe and Amber Perkins organized the protest at the high school today as part of the Students Demand Action national walkout against gun violence.

For the second consecutive year, high school students walked out to the front lawn at 12 p.m. today to advocate for stricter gun laws. 

The protest, which started during fifth period at the high school and ended around 1 p.m., was promoted nationwide by gun legislation advocacy organization Students Demand Action. “Being a student shouldn’t be a death sentence but once again, gun violence has forced its way into our schools, leaving nothing but pain, trauma, and tragedy in its wake. We need more than thoughts and prayers. We demand action from our lawmakers now,” their website states.

On March 27, an armed assailant killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn. Turmoil over gun violence and legislation has grown rapidly all over the nation. 

Students Demand Action provided a “toolkit” for students to use in organizing their school’s walkout. “Walk out of your school to demand action on Wednesday, April 5th at noon local time,” their website states, along with tips on how to organize a successful protest. 

Principal Eric Juli allowed students to walk out and ensured safety of the protesters with the Shaker Heights Police Department’s presence. “Kids came to me and asked if they could do this, and I said, ‘Certainly.’ I just helped the organizers think through some of the logistics and was a part in making sure that the police were here to keep the oval safe. I just helped a little with the organizational stuff, but this was really entirely student run,” he said.

The Shaker Makers student organization, advised by Juli’s wife, Julie Kaufman, planned this year’s protest. Amber Perkins, a sophomore Shaker Makers member, was one of the primary organizers. “This was about 48 hours ago. We got a text from Ms. Julie just asking if we would want to plan this protest, and we all volunteered that we would help because we think it’s an important subject to protest against,” Perkins said.

“You see all of these stories about students getting killed in school shootings, but you don’t really think it’s gonna happen to you, and you’re just kinda like, ‘Oh, it’s just another one of those, it’s fine.’ But until it really happens in our school, people don’t care about it, and that’s not OK,” Perkins said. “We need to raise awareness about this subject because the sooner we can stop gun violence, which is why we are protesting around here, the sooner kids will be safe in their schools.”

“How many more walkouts do I have to participate in before something is done,” sophomore speaker El Braunsdorf asked in her emotional speech. 

“Fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade, tenth grade, I am still walking out in protest of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers? Take your damn thoughts and prayers to the polls,” Braunsforf said.

Junior Quintin Garnett attended the walkout. “This could happen to any of these students right now, so I feel like it’s a necessity to come out here and participate,” he said. 

School Board President Dr. Emmitt Jolly, who attended the protest, wants students to know that he is proud of them. “As soon as I got here, I started seeing so many students that I knew in here going through the march. My son walked by –   ‘Hey, dad.’ But you know, the reality is I’m proud of the students here. You guys have looked at an issue that’s really important in our country, you guys have decided that it’s a problem and you decided to take action. It’s hard to organize, and look at the number of students out here. They aren’t all out here just to skip class; they’re out here because they find this to be important,” he said.

“I just want to be out here to just show some visible support for the efforts, the emotional statements being made and just be here for them. In reality, it’s about them. It’s about the students,” Jolly said. 

Wednesday’s walkout was not the first gun violence protest at the high school in recent years. Students walked out in May 2022 in response to the Uvalde, Texas mass school shooting.In March 2018, students held a silent walk out in honor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting’s 17 victims in Parkland, Florida.

Senior Josh Mink was one of five organizers of last year’s protest. “Last year, me and a team of students, we came together and said we’re going to wear orange and we’re going to paint signs and we’re going to stay up all night,” he said in a speech to the crowd today. “And this year we’re wearing red. And I’m tired, so tired.”

In his speech, Mink said he wishes that no student would ever have to speak about gun violence again. “For next year, I don’t know if we’re going to wear blue or green, or if we’ll be here at all, and hopefully we won’t have to be here by necessity. But hopefully we will all make it to next year. And I hate to say that; it sounds dramatic. And I feel ridiculous saying that, but it’s true. You all matter, and you deserve to see next year,” he said.

Juli said he is proud of the students who took action in organizing this walkout. “I write about and I talk about wanting students to learn by doing all the time, and that’s what this is,” he said, “It’s students figuring out how to find their voice and passions about what they believe in, and I think that’s the purpose of school.”

Josh Levin, Jenna Loveman, Bay Simonelli and Caroline Connell contributed to reporting.

Click here to see a slideshow of students who spoke at the protest.


Correction: This story has been revised to correct a quote from Mink’s speech at the protest.

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