Arcata High School students joined a nationwide walkout on March 14. The walkout was in reaction to the recent shooting in Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a man with a semi-automatic rifle took the lives of three faculty members and 14 students.
Arcata High sophomore Fiona Murphy left her class to join the rest of the students and faculty participating in the walkout last Wednesday morning. The destination was the Arcata Plaza.
The walkout was led by Arcata High sophomore Skaidra Pulley and freshman Maddie Lankarani. Pulley compiled a six-page list of victims of semi-automatic weapons. The names were read during the 17 minutes of silence.
“During those 17 minutes I went through a range of emotions,” Murphy said. “I went from crying to pure anger that this is happening, to crying again.”
Jennifer Rosebrook teaches American history at Arcata High. She stayed on campus during the walkout. Rosebrook graduated from Humboldt State and has been teaching at the high school for 22 years.
“I stayed on campus during the walkout as per my contract,” Rosebrook said. “It’s just like if you worked in a factory, you don’t just get up and leave in the middle of it.”
The administration found a teacher who wasn’t teaching in order to cover for those who wanted to be part of the walkout.
“That allowed those teachers who really wanted to go down with the kids and keep them safe,” Rosebrook said.
The Trump Administration’s proposal to provide school personnel with firearms and training brought criticism from Rosebrook.
“I’m not a big fan of any weapons to be honest. It doesn’t matter if they’re a rifle, a gun or nunchucks,” Rosebrook said. “I would never consider carrying a gun on [campus]. I think it is a reaction to what’s going on, not a proposal to fix it.”
Not all high school students attended the walkout. James Manion, a senior at Arcata High, chose to stay in school and go to class.
“I was thinking about going, but at the same time, I didn’t really want to get involved with something like that,” Manion said. “I stayed in my English class, but everyone in the English class left. I just sat in the parking lot waiting for my next class to start.”
Murphy went around writing the words “Who’s next?” on people’s hands with a Sharpie as they held their hands up.
“Our arms started to cramp, because we had to hold our hands up while all the names were read,” Murphy said. “We didn’t have to hold our arms up, but we wanted to.”
Murphy said that Pulley told her the list of names originally compiled was going to be a list of every student and teacher who had been killed in a school shooting by a gun. The list was 11 pages long and hadn’t been completed.
“People are dying. We have to remember the names of the victims and not the shooter,” Murphy said. “You feel like you’re in a bubble when you just see it on the news, but participating and hearing the names of all the people who died makes it real.”
In the last two minutes of the silence, someone in a pickup truck drove around the Arcata Plaza two or three times blasting music out of their car.
“It turned out to be a McKinleyville student,” Murphy said. “I think he was doing it to be antagonistic and break up the memoriam.”
When the memorial for the Parkland victims ended, Murphy didn’t go back to school. She stayed in the plaza with a small group until 5 p.m., writing letters to Congress.
“We packed pens, pencils and papers to write to Congress,” Murphy said. “Throughout the day, different moms were bringing us food, tea and cookies,”
Students wrote the letters to Paul Ryan, Donald Trump and others, asking for more restrictions on AR-15 rifles. They also sent thank you notes to congressman Jared Huffman for lobbying for gun control.
“Since it is national, it is putting more pressure on the government to do something,” Murphy said. “Even if our little walkout doesn’t directly affect it, it’s making a ripple. It’s laying a foundation for getting something done.”