In the hours leading up to the walkout, Montclair High School was electric with excitement and purpose. Students dressed in varying shades of orange (the gun-violence awareness color), brought flowers and hand-written posters to show their support for the students of Marjory-Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. At 9:55 a.m. students marched out of their third period classes and into the hallways with determination. Across the street from the school, parents and supporters cheered on the students passing by as they made their way outside. Row by row, the amphitheatre became filled with students, all with the common goal of advocating for their safety as students. Students began chanting in unison against gun violence while waiting for the speakers to begin.
A group of 13 students lined up at the base of the amphitheatre quieting the crowd with just the sound of their voices through a megaphone. Student organizers Blythe Raine Bahramipour and Corinna Davis read the names of the 17 victims of the Parkland Schooll shooting which took place exactly one month ago on February 14. Then, one by one, students spoke about what the walkout meant to them, and why it was so important that we, as students take action.
The speakers included Daphne Hansell, Mirit Skeen, Emily Springer, Estee Goel, Carrington Brooks, Ezra Rifkin, Jacob Schmeltz, Ilyssa Chanin, Alissa Brown, Will Novak, Maggie Borgen, as well as Bahramipour and Davis. After each student spoke, the crowd cheered in support. Following the speeches, the huge crowd joined for a moment of silence, in memory of the victims and those affected by the Parkland School shooting. In an orderly fashion, students filed out of the amphitheatre and back into the building, many feeling a significant sense of accomplishment. Some students left posters and flowers at the memorial in the front of Montclair High to honor those who lost their lives.
The walkout was more than a protest, it was representative of the power of young people and the influence they have. The walkout was run by students, for students to encourage them to stand up for their safety.
Bahramipour, president of the Montclair High School Senior class, says the walk-out was a great opportunity for her to step up as a leader and advocate for her peers. Bahramipour and senior Corinna Davis, who helped start Students Demand Action Essex County, organized the entirely student-run 17 minute demonstration at the Montclair High School amphitheatre. Bahramipour’s father is an Iranian immigrant who has greatly influenced her desire for activism, teaching her the power and importance of free-speech and democracy. Bahramipour hopes the walkout proves to political leaders that students will no longer remain silent and will speak out against gun violence.
“Our generation is composed of incredible advocates that are becoming more and more politically involved. It is up to us, the millennials, to voice our opinions in order to obtain change,” says Bahramipour.
By protesting, Blythe also hopes to also combat the common misconception that kids and teens are too young to truly understand political issues, even ones that affect their day-to-day lives as students. Although there was fervent support for the walkout in Montclair, the event also managed to stir up a significant amount of controversy. When organizing the demonstration, Bahramipour made it her goal to make the rally as inclusive as possible.
The walkout may be over, but the fight for safety in schools does not end here, there are countless ways to fight for the protection of students everyday. Davis will continue her efforts with Students Demand Action, an organization that’s part of Everytown For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, which fights to protect the students of America. Davis was motivated to take action after learning that her father’s college friend had a daughter who attended Parkland.
Davis hopes the national action of students walking out all over the United States will show the country that students mean business.
“Our generation is not going to stand down; we are going to fight for change.” says Davis. “For our own school, I hope it will be an empowering experience that get students involved with activism and the movement.”
Davis will now shift her focus to the March For Our Lives on March 24.
“Students Demand Action Essex County will support the march happening in Newark, a city that’s disproportionately affected by gun violence,” says Davis.
Bharamipour and Davis plan to continue to educate their peers on the importance of voting and speaking out.
“General advocacy is great, but the the real change occurs at the polls. We are also encouraging students to call their representatives and voice their opinions on gun laws,” adds Bharamipour.
Students also walked out in spirited demonstrations at Montclair’s three middle schools — Glenfield, Renaissance and Buzz Aldrin.
Ava Marzulli is a sophomore at Montclair High School’s Center For Social Justice small learning community.