MISSOULA – At noon on Wednesday, high school students in Missoula joined other high schools across the country in holding a walkout in response to last week’s mass school shooting in Broward Co., Florida, which killed 17 students.
Students from Hellgate and Sentinel high schools gathered on both sides of the Higgins Avenue Bridge, holding signs and chanting for gun control. Their purpose was twofold: to protest gun violence and show support for the victims of last week’s shooting.
Students say they are frustrated with the lack of action regarding gun control, and that it’s time for their voice to be heard.
“It’s a stand of solidarity with Florida and saying that they’re not alone, and that we want to see change too,” said Hellgate freshman Faith Wells. “That it’s not just them alone in this fight and that the students are working together.”
“We’re the next generation coming into this world,” said Hellgate senior Henry Charman. “The importance of us doing this is to show students all over the country, really, that we have a voice.”
Many of those driving across the Higgins Avenue Bridge hit their horns in support of the students.
Big Sky High School students also staged a walkout to join Hellgate and other high schools across the country. Their hope is to make their school a safer place to attend every day.
“I marched to show that you really matter,” Big Sky student Max Smith said, “Our place should be safe. Right now its kind of like a throw-up, a toss-up.”
“We’re out here to show support to all the victims of the shooting in Florida, and all the other victims of school shootings and to show people that something needs to change,” said Big Sky student Walker Winterburm.
Students walked out of Big Sky High School at noon and then stood outside of the school with homemade signs. They eventually moved down the street to C.S. Porter Middle School where afternoon traffic on Reserve Street raced by. Some drivers stopped to ask the students what their demonstration was about.
The students said they believe that the walkout could bring awareness to their dissatisfaction with the current state of school safety and open a dialogue to fix the problem.
“I think kids shouldn’t have to come to school scared and that should be somebody’s number one priority, is to make sure that kids of our schools aren’t scared, because that’s the last place they should be scared,” said Big Sky student Kassie Marcinkowski.
“Talk. Talk about what the real issues are,” said Big Sky student Griffin Ziegert. “Not being one-sided about things. Talk to all types of people. Right wing, left wing, Democrat, Republican. Everybody talk to them about their views and find a middle ground that we can all agree on and work on it together, because we’re stronger together as a team.”
After walking past C.S. Porter, Big Sky students continued their walkout by joined students from Hellgate and Sentinel high schools at Caras Park.
Reporting by Russ Thomas and Connor McCauley for MTN News