The Arapahoe Pinnacle

Crowds of Students March on Denver State Capitol to Protest Gun Violence

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Denver, March 14. Student protester tells us where the power truly comes from.

Denver, March 14. Student protester tells us where the power truly comes from.

Image via Kera Morris

Image via Kera Morris

Denver, March 14. Student protester tells us where the power truly comes from.

Kera Morris, Reporter

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On March 14, 2018, students across the nation joined the national student walkout, one month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In Denver, Colorado, the roar of students marching on the Capitol in protest of the status quo could be heard long before the crowd became visible.

“What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!”

The protest trademark of call-and-answer chants attracts the attention of everyone within earshot.

“Hey hey! Ho ho! Gun violence has got to go!”

The sun warms the shoulders of newly arriving protestors, and the tension in the air encourages them to walk a little faster down East Colfax, eager to join the crowd outside of the Colorado State Capitol.

“Hey hey NRA, how many kids did you kill today?”

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. Student protesters waiting to question their representatives.

Signs wave high overhead, fists rise into the air. The adults step back, creating a haphazard semicircle around the crowd. Teachers and onlookers are visibly awed by the raw power and fury rolling off of these young students in waves.

“Protect kids, not guns! Protect kids, not guns!”

The students stand behind iron railings, facing the street. Cars slow as they roll by, honking in solidarity. The cacophony is breathtaking. Hands pop out of passenger windows, offering peace signs and thumbs up, shouting encouragement.

“Who are we? Generation Z! Who are we? Generation Z!” 

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. A megaphone is passed from student to student.

A megaphone swaps hands frequently. Some students defiantly shout the risks of ignoring the youth. Other students, soft-spoken, beseech us to value their lives. With each new speaker, the student protesters offer their support, their comfort—passing on their unique strength and solidarity through a sort of osmosis that enables every student who wants to speak to fight past stage fright, past any fear of judgment.

“I don’t know but I’ve been told—what we need is gun control!”

This is unity. As one, these kids stand, speak, and demand action.

“What if next time, it’s not a drill? What if one day I’m gone, and my mom doesn’t know until the news starts reporting it?” proclaimed one of the many student speakers via megaphone to the roiling crowd.

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. Student protester noting a common political hypocrisy.

The Speaker of the House, dressed in vibrant red, slips momentarily unnoticed onto the Capitol’s second-floor terrace to observe the demonstration. Another Capitol employee notices, and moments later the massive crowd turns about to observe Crisanta Duran. The chanting and sign waving begin anew in earnest. Duran waves a moment before slipping back into the building.

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. Student protesters gather steam outside the Capitol building.

“This has just gone on too long, there have been too many,” says Megan Edwards, University of Denver student.

Pastor Brad of Highlands United Methodist Church opines, “I’m very glad to see young people claiming their voice, being present, and doing it in such a way that models for others how to be involved.”

Another thundering roar approaches. Hundreds more teens, tweens, children and adults have been marching their way to this protest, and have now arrived. The crowd swells to over a thousand and turns its attention to the Capitol.

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. More students start to arrive from a cross-city march.

“I am so glad all of my peers are here to talk about gun violence, to make reforms that adults have not. It’s really scary… to think about going to school and not being able to come home,” says student demonstrator Natalie Tanji.

Her friend Isabella Yow interjects, “I just hope that the government comes to terms, that our kids are being murdered and slaughtered—and not doing anything about it, so we need to take a stand and protect our kids.”

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. The crowd continues to grow.

“I just think that, all of us today… this is really beautiful, that everybody came together today. I think if we continue to do this, if people come together, then gun violence will stop in schools. Because usually, when gun violence happens… people post about it on social media… and then after a few weeks, everyone forgets about it until it happens again. This cycle can end,” says student demonstrator Kalia Burks.

“If unity was more elaborated in communities…” muses student demonstrator Jasmine Storer, “then there would be less violence and mass shootings, because people would feel obligated to support their communities.”

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. Student protestor has suggestions on how to properly arm teachers.

A couple of veterans have joined in the fray. “I’m… a professor of the University of Denver, and this is something that I clearly think is very important… from making sure we don’t arm teachers, because that’s ridiculous, to understanding from serving in combat what guns, particularly ARs, do; there’s not a need to have them on our streets… from deploying, from risking my life, to having the same weapons used to kill American kids—it’s just wrong,” says military veteran and university professor Kyleanne Hunter.

Governor John Hickenlooper strides purposefully out of the Capitol to the crowd, offering support and congratulation to everyone attending. His speech offers some political niceties, but also encouragement for these future voters to stay this active, to maintain this level of engagement.

Image via Kera Morris
Denver, March 14. Gov. Hickenlooper addresses student protestors.

At the top of the steps, dozens of curious state representatives and their aides gather to talk quietly and gaze wide-eyed at the turnout below. One by one, they move into the crowd, answering student questions and giving statements to journalists from large networks and small newspapers — including the Arapahoe Pinnacle.

Approaching Representative Matt Gray, the legislator offers: “I am just overwhelmed by the number of young people here to speak their minds, I think a lot of times we have conversations about state policy, political policy the voices of our young people don’t always come to the front because they’re busy in school… I think it’s really important that they come here and have their voices heard, and I’m just here to listen and make sure to hear what they have to tell us.”

Representative Dave Young says, “When you see students taking a leadership role, it gives you a little more faith in the future, doesn’t it?”

Representative Joseph Salazar added, “I love it… I want to give you a contrast… I received a number of death threats in 2013 all the way to 2015 because we passed gun safety legislation.”

There is an upcoming demonstration, the March for Our Lives Saturday, March 24th at 2 p.m. at Denver’s Civic Center Park.

“We have students coming from Parkland, survivors that are going to come tell their stories,” says Tay Anderson president of Never Again-CO.

As the major events of the day come to a close, a particularly active student that’s been speaking, chanting and demonstrating all morning and afternoon takes a rest—but not really. In closing, here is the voice of student protester Annie Stevenson voice encapsulating what we have witnessed today.

She says, “I think that is the main message of this march, is we want to have an education, especially an education that is free from concern about being gunned down in our classrooms.”

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