United in protest: Central Falls students join nationwide walkout for gun violence
Over 160 students from The Learning Community Charter School joined thousands across the nation, walking out and holding a five-minute silence, to demand safer schools free from gun violence. Bearing signs and wearing orange shirts, they honored lives lost and called for change in gun control legislation.
Students from The Learning Community Charter School in Central Falls joined thousands of students nationwide in walking out and holding a five-minute moment of silence to demand safer schools, free from the threat of gun violence. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States.
“Our kids are continuously – over and over again – traumatized by active shooter drills in schools,” said Middle School teacher Erin O’Neil, who helped students organize the walk-out. “Schools should be a place where they feel safe – and they don’t.”
About 160 students stepped outside into the chilly air, many carrying hand crafted signs with words such as “I should be worried about my SATs, not my life,” “Protect Children, Not Guns” and “Practice Stoicism.”
Some student wore orange tee shirts that said, “I am Danny O’Neil.”
“Danny O’Neil was my brother,” said Erin O’Neil to Uprise RI. “He was killed in the Virginia Tech school shooting [in 2007]… A few years after his death is when I really started becoming a gun violence prevention advocate. Leading youth activism is really where my passion is.”
“Students have a lot of questions about school safety,” said O’Neil. “They always want to know, Are certain doors bulletproof? Are windows bulletproof? … They are always looking for the weak points of entry. They say that whenever there is a school shooting, they feel very anxious, that it could be them, that the next time it could be our school.”
O’Neil’s prescription or legislative action includes universal background checks at the federal level. More locally, “I think there should be an assault weapon ban. I don’t think anybody needs an AR-15 for whatever purpose they say they need it for: for protection, for hunting, for any of that. I don’t think anyone needs it.”
Uprise RI has learned that hearings in the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee, on proposed gun legislation, are tentatively schedule for April 17.
“That’s the day after the anniversary of my brother’s death,” said O’Neil. She looks forward to testifying.