More than a thousand students from North Portland to Lake Oswego descended on Portland City Hall Friday as part of the National School Walkout against gun violence.
They carried signs that said “Guns Are Not School Supplies,” and “Enough.”
The protest marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. That was before most of these students were born. But students like Asher, at Portland’s Lincoln High School, remember more recent shootings, like Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
“My mom did not tell me, because it was my 12th birthday – December 14, 2012 – and the Sandy Hook shooting happened on my 12th birthday,” Asher told the crowd.
“She didn’t want me to make me feel sad on my birthday, so she didn’t tell me that day.”
But Asher and thousands of students across the country have been turning their grief into anger since 17 students were fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February.
Students have been pushing relentlessly for gun control measures, with national protests starting with school walkouts on March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting.
At Friday’s rally in Portland, students applauded one another for braving possible discipline at school to make those buildings safer for school violence.
Catlin Gabel student Helena Khoury pressed those who were old enough to vote to punish politicians who sided with the gun lobby.
“So to all the politicians who take money from the NRA – and I am talking to you, Marco Rubio and Oregon’s own Greg Walden – the blood is on your hands,” Khoury said, as the gathered students continued her message by chanting “The blood is on your hands.”
Students also addressed allegations from gun rights advocates, that young people are being guided or coached by liberal activists. A Lincoln freshman named Elliana asked the rally if they needed adults to tell them what to believe.
“Let me ask you the students. Are we brainwashed? Are we crisis actors?” Elliana shouted through a megaphone.
Students shouted back, “No.”
Then she asked, “But can we start revolutions?”
And the students responded with a raucous “Yes!”
The only non-teenager to speak was Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who applauded the students’ efforts.
“This isn’t about adults giving you advice, this is about you telling adults what you want and expect. But don’t let this be a moment, let this be the beginning of an era,” Wheeler told students.