Fairfield students walk out to demand action
FAIRFIELD — Though well over the expected 500 Fairfield Warde students had gathered outside in the school’s parking lot Wednesday morning as part of National Walkout Day, the group was almost completely silent as the names of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School massacre were read.
“Even though not everyone was as active as maybe we are, I think people were generally engaged in the chants, people brought posters and made posters at home,” said junior Zoe Gupta, 16, after the protest had finished. Gupta, along with seniors Ted Orben, 18, Nate Ulman, 17, Paola Roach, 17, and Moira Honohan, 17, were among the organizers of Warde’s walkout.
Gupta said the nationwide walkout that Fairfield students took part of was step one — alerting legislatures to the desires of the nation’s young people — of a many-step process. Next, the group needs to find a way to affect real, legislative change.
“Now that we’re aware, how can we actually make policy change? Because that is what we’re asking for — it’s not thoughts and prayers, it’s change in policy,” Gupta said.
As the students trickled out of Warde just before 10 a.m., large speakers played songs like “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan and “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones. Students carried signs reading “Protect Kids Not Guns” and “One child is worth more than all the guns in the world” and chanted “School is not a place for fear,” “Books not bullets,’ and “We want gun control and we want it now,” as police, teachers and administrators sealed off the area where the students stood.
“People have to have differing opinions,” Roach told the crowd during the protest. “This is one of them.”
At the same time across town, about 700 of Fairfield Ludlowe High School’s students took part in Wednesday’s walk out, and they were joined by some of the students from Roger Ludlowe Middle School next door. Some wore orange shirts, while others carried signs.
“They didn’t have the permission we did,” said Molly Baker, 18, of the middle schoolers. While she said the high school students were prepared to walk out without the administration’s support, it was nice to have it. “But to do it without support is amazing, that’s just awesome.”
Fairfield Ludlowe’s participation in the national school walk out was spearheaded by Nick Fech, a senior at the high school.
It was the Saturday following the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla. “I was laying in my bed, scrolling through Facebook,” Fech said, and saw posts about the walk out. Still in bed, he said, he began to do some research, and signed his high school up for the protest.
“At first, I thought ‘What if the administration won’t work with us?’ and then I said, ‘Wait, I don’t care,’” the 17-year-old said.
There were a lot of people who wanted to do something in the Parkland shooting aftermath, Hadley Day said.
“A lot of people were passionate about gun control,” the 16-year-old said.
So, Day, Baker, Nicole Campbell, Christine Donnelly, and Christina Convertito joined with Fech in making Ludlowe’s walkout a reality.
“I’m new here, and I don’t know a lot of people,” Campbell said. But when the 16-year-old learned the walkout was being organized, “I jumped on it,” she said.
With the exception of Representative Town Meeting member Nancy Lefkowitz, D-1, the speakers addressing the crowd gathered on the football field were all students. They reminded each other that they were the change and that they would make sure that school shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland are no longer accepted as normal. Several remembered their middle school going into lockdown when the Newtown shooting happened.
In addition to the walkout, there were voter registration tables available Wednesday and postcards ready to send to politicians.
Campbell said she helped to organize making the postcards and set up a station for them in the school’s library.
“Contact and write your representatives, whatever you believe in,” she said.
As for the walkout, “the administration kind of let us run loose on this,” Day said.