'We will change the world'
Lakeridge High School students who gathered at Hazelia Field on Friday morning weren't alive when two young gunmen opened fire in a Colorado high school in 1999.
But they have seen a series of school shootings take the lives of students and staff in the years since Columbine, and so they gathered Friday to commemorate the date when 15 people died in what is widely considered to be the first mass-casualty shooting at a U.S. high school.
"It's because of shootings like these — and Sandy Hook, and Parkland — that we are here today," said Lakeridge sophomore Kalista Marandas, who organized the walkout. More than 75 students marched from the campus to Hazelia Field across Stafford Road.
"We, the next generation, are here to stand up," she said. "To speak up. To tell our representatives and our government that we care. Enough is enough. We need change, and we need it now."
The Lakeridge walkout was part of a national event launched by a Connecticut teen; by Friday afternoon, it had grown to 2,600 registered protests. In Portland, nearly 1,000 students from a variety of high schools massed at City Hall, chanting "Enough is enough" and "Hey, hey, NRA, we don't want to die today."
The Lakeridge gathering, which started at 10 a.m. and lasted about an hour, was the latest in a series of walkouts, "walk-ups" and lobbying efforts by Lake Oswego students that followed a Valentine's Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
In March, more than 200 local high schoolers brought their pleas for common-sense gun regulations and school safety to Salem, where they met with Gov. Kate Brown, lobbied lawmakers and rallied on the Capitol steps. They also held walkouts and observed 17 minutes of silence — one minute for each of the students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. And they joined an estimated 12,000 people in a "March for Our Lives" in Portland as a way of confronting what many see as a nationwide epidemic of gun violence.
On Friday, all nine speakers called for increased gun regulations. But they also railed against racism and bullying and other behaviors that often push marginalized students to commit violent acts.
"This isn't just a gun issue. This is partially the issue of intense bullying in high schools," said Lakeridge student Mackenzie Smaller. "(Some) people have been told their entire lives that they are worthless and will never amount to anything, which is why 71 percent of school shooters reported being persecuted, bullied or threatened prior to their attack."
Smaller said she doesn't mean to take anything away from the horrific acts committed by mass shooters, "but how do we make this our fault? How do we turn this into something that we can change with our own actions?"
Students should demand that lawmakers toughen the nation's gun laws, she said, "but please, treat everyone with the same respect. Give some compliments to the person in your class that may not ever hear it from anyone else, or sit with someone who is alone at lunch."
Sophomore Imani Royster reminded her classmates that gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color.
"Gun violence is a huge problem that affects many people from all walks of life," she said, "but it affects the black community in record-breaking numbers. Let's not forget that the communities that are mostly black and brown have been living with gun violence for decades."
When black activists take to the streets to protest police shootings, they are met with officers in full riot gear and attacked with tear gas, Royster said. But the mostly white activists from Parkland have been invited to CNN Town Halls and the White House.
"Black lives matter, and black lives are under attack," she said, "and I can tell you that it's extremely dangerous to be black in America in 2018."
It's also an increasingly dangerous time to be a student, several speakers said. Ariana Chin said her mother was a teacher at Reynolds High School when a young gunman opened fire there in 2014.
"I now find myself walking into school every day, scared that it'll be the last time I'll see my family," she said. "This is a fear that I unfortunately share with thousands of kids across the nation."
Yelena Friedman agreed that students are scared, adding that it broke her heart to be participating in yet another anti-gun walkout. "It breaks my heart because if we are having this walkout," she said, "it means that the right changes haven't happened yet."
Like her classmates, Friedman said students can no longer rely on current lawmakers or other government officials to bring about the changes that will make students feel safer.
"I'm done with waiting for them to be the change I want to see," she said. "We are the change! Everyone here today is the change! We are the generation that will make this world safer."
To do that, Friedman and other speakers said, students must register when they are eligible to vote and cast their ballots for leaders who will enact common-sense gun regulations.
"Don't back down for one minute, because we will get the changes we want and we will make tomorrow a better and brighter day if we keep fighting for it," Friedman said. "We will change the world."
Taking their case to Salem
Three students from Lake Oswego High School commemorated the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting on Friday by joining nearly 100 students from across the state at a rally in Salem.
LOHS students Natalie Khalil, Elliot Lloyd and Penelope Spurr — all members of the grassroots group LO Students for Change — were among a group of 200 Lake Oswego students who traveled to the state capital in March to meet with Gov. Kate Brown, lobby lawmakers and rally on the Capitol steps. On Friday, they returned to continue their push for common-sense gun regulations and increased school safety.
At the Capitol, students gave speeches and met with a variety of state lawmakers. Among the issues they discussed: raising the age for legally owning a gun, banning assault weapons and semi-automatic rifles, and increasing student involvement.
Khalil, Lloyd and Spurr each gave a short speech outlining a 10-point plan they officially presented to state Sen. Rob Wagner and state Rep. Andrea Salinas last week. (Wagner and Salinas vowed to draft legislation based on the proposal; for details, read the story online at lakeoswegoreview.com.)
"The speeches in Salem made it very clear that this is about more than just guns," West Linn High School student Wallace Milner told The Review this week. "This is about giving a voice to marginalized people: to students, to minorities, to LGBTQ+ people, to people who are ignored and not represented by our government — people who are victims of the government's decisions."
— Claire Holley