Wednesday morning, the California sun beamed down bright and shining through the crisp Spring air. After a week full of much needed rain, the South Pasadena High School students, along with thousands of other schools across the nation, decided to exercise their Freedom of Speech and participate in what they believe to be a much needed walkout.
SPHS Principal, Janet Anderson, explained that she expected the students would be interested in participating in some capacity to voice their concerns on gun violence after the Women’s March Foundation announced the National Walkout, “I talked to some of the student leaders about what form they might [have] wanted to take, what they wanted it to be… They said that they really wanted to plan a walkout, they wanted to do that on their own.”
The event itself was arranged solely by student organizers. Senior, Owen Pratt decided to begin a Facebook invite for the event after noticing the impact the Parkland, Florida’s High School Shooting had on his two parents, both professional educators. His father a Professor at University of Southern California’s Cinematic Department, and his mom, a local Marengo Elementary School teacher.
Sophie Reynolds, an SPHS Senior, heard word of the Women’s March Foundation via Twitter, prompting students to organize walkouts nationwide in solidarity of the Parkland, Florida’s High School Shooting.
“I thought that was kind of interesting because a lot of times, after these shootings take place, you know, people send their thoughts and prayers and we kind of forget… but this time it seemed like people weren’t just going to forget.”
After the students combined forces, along with some help from the ASB, South Pasadena High School had a plan in place. On Wednesday, March 14th at 10am, the South Pasadena High School students planned to participate in the National School Walkout.
At around 9:50 am, SPHS students began quietly shuffling to the school’s entrance on Fremont Ave. As 10 o’clock hit, the school’s entrance was blanketed by hundreds of High School students. The crowd of an estimated 500 students began walking first on Bank St. where residents would be able to hear them chant “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! All the guns have got to go!”
After rounding the corner onto Fair Oaks Ave. the true size of the crowd of High Schoolers was very much apparent. The students bombarded the sidewalk and wrapped around the corner as they took a left onto Monterey Rd.
When asked about the impact of the size of the crowd, SPHS student and walkout participant, Matthew Dudley stated that, “It touches me, cause people actually care. We have to get this message out and we’re really getting this message out.”
Pratt, as one of the student leaders who helped organize the event, was surprised at the size of the crowd himself.
“I think it’s crazy how many students came out to do this” Owen continued, “It shows that people care… and they want [to take] some action whether its guns, mental health, anything.”
As they continued on, the protesters were met with cheers from local residents and car horns that sounded as vehicles drove by. Even South Pasadena City Councilmember Robert S. Joe and South Pasadena City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe were spotted observing, taking photos, and cheering on the youth of South Pasadena.
Mayor Pro Tem, Marina Khubesrian, M.D. herself walked side by side with the high schoolers in support of the students’ freedom of speech.
“It is high time that we sobered up as a nation and protect the lives of our residents and our kids as opposed to the profits of the weapons industry,” Khubesrian continued, “That is why I am here in solidarity with these kids and their activism and the change that they will be bringing to our nation, finally.”
The last and final left turn led the peaceful protesters onto Fremont Ave where they would then return back into campus and continue their day with scheduled classes. The walkout itself lasted roughly 20 minutes from beginning to end.
The South Pasadena Police Department monitored the walkout throughout its duration, making sure that the students exercised their right to the First Amendment safely.
The students are now in the midst of planning a letter writing campaign to communicate their appreciation to corporations who have already cut ties with the National Rifle Association since the Parkland, Florida’s High School Shooting as well as writing to corporations who still have ties to the NRA asking them to “follow suit.”
Reynolds explained after the dust had settled from the walkout event that, “People obviously pay attention and care about this issue and are also not going to forget, they’re going to keep fighting for this.”