Solidarity, inclusion, recognition.
These sentiments were virtually tangible as the students of Mission Bay High School, 2475 Grand Ave., faced the traffic passing by their demonstration on the morning of March 14.
The teens — some of them to be first-time voters in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections — demanded the attention of the passers-by, their nation and its, politicians, who they feel have long disregarded them and their safety.
Exactly one month to the minute after 17 fellow high school students were slaughtered in a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the first major coordinated call for new gun control legislation took place nationwide.
Dubbed “National School Walkout Day,” the protest drew thousands of participants in every state of the union, including some who chose to participate alone without the support of staff or other students.
The walkout would be followed nearly two weeks later by by the “March for Our Lives,” which drew more than 10,000 participants in San Diego and millions nationwide.
The unrelenting efforts of participants was summed up in a single word used on sing and in the form of a hashtag “#Enough.”
“I was gonna’ (walk out) regardless of if anybody showed up, because I do believe strongly in change,” said Clara Sandoval, 16-year-old junior at Mission Bay High School. “There’s been so many passive generations that haven’t done anything to change what has been happening, beyond gun control ... we will not be another passive generation.”
Sandoval, head of the campus Mexican-American Club, was one of several Mission Bay students to take charge in organizing the walkout and urge others to participate. In Pacific Beach — as was the case around the country — students were the primary voices.
“They are new to activism, so they needed a little bit of guidance,” said Linsey Littlefield, ASB adviser to Mission Bay students. “But they coordinated the day.”
Littlefield, 37, recalls becoming politically aware as a teenager like her students, when she observed unjust treatment of her LGBTQ peers and first experienced gender bias in the work place.
Such experiences almost certain to influence the outcome of future elections.
A study by the Pew Research Center indicates Millennials and GenXers outvoted Baby Boomers and older generations in 2016, with more young voters expected in November.
“We’ve been making sure when everyone turns 18 they do go and register to vote,” said Djarese Blevins, 18-year-old senior who led chants during the walkout. “Not just gun control, but all the bills, all the (California) propositions and stuff … we need our input in it and (to) let people know we have a say.”
In San Diego, peers of Blevins and Sandoval may hear the call to preventing future gun violence a bit louder than some, knowing the Vegas shooter researched multiple beaches in the city last spring, four months before carrying out the attack now know as the most deadly mass shooting in American history.
The proximity, however, only amplifies a grim reality with which students are familiar.
“This is the generation that really feels like their lives are in danger,” Littlefield reflected. “One of the students brought up that they are a post-Columbine generation. They were all born post-Columbine … to them this is normal, this is their lives, this is just what happens, so keeping hope alive was really important to them, because they feel like they have very little.”
House Rep. Scott Peters — who represents the 52nd Congressional District in which Mission Bay High sits — recently condemned a bill that would force all states to recognize concealed carry permits. Peters has vowed to vote with the Democratic party on issues relating to gun control. At the time of this writing, he and his staff have not responded to a request for comment regarding the actions of students at Mission Bay.
As the crowd subsided after the walkout, a student who wished to remain anonymous made a statement she hopes will resound as the nation and its leaders continue to observe the actions of students regarding gun control. “They (politicians) can’t ignore us,” she said, wiping away tears in front of a memorial dedicated to her 17 peers killed in Florida. “They see us, and those kids at the elementary school (across the street) see us, too. We’re going to be an example to them, they’ll learn. We’re not ‘just’ kids. We know things, and whatever is (written) or said about us, should show that.”