18 things CHS heard at Rep. Jayapal and Seattle March for Our Lives town hall

What would you say to Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old arrested for the murder of 17 students last month in Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?

“I wish you had the chance to get the help you needed and to understand why this is not okay. I’m really sorry that it had to come to this and I feel sadness and anger and pity for you,” said Lucas Illa, Lakeside High School junior and Seattle March for Our Lives organizer.

March For Our Lives – Seattle

The movement to end gun violence has spread from Parkland Florida to Washington. Ahead of the Seattle March for Our Lives protest march next Saturday, March 24, Illa and six other activists from high schools across Seattle hosted a town hall meeting at Garfield High School to discuss the national student-led demand for gun-access policy reform.

U.S. Representative from Washington’s 7th congressional district Pramila Jayapal joined the activists to address questions from online and a live audience Saturday morning at Garfield High School’s Quincy Jones Auditorium.

“Our prime responsibility is to take care of each other. It’s not to money or greed so let’s make sure we incorporate love and generosity through non-violence,” Jayapal told the young march leaders Saturday.

Here are 18 more things CHS heard at the March for our Lives town hall:

  1. Co-founder of the Seattle March for our Lives, Scout Smissen said if she could say anything to Cruz, she would tell him “Sometimes the people that cause the most harm can be the most misunderstood and in the most pain, so I can only imagine how much pain you are in, but it doesn’t excuse your actions. What you did was incredibly disappointing and disgusting, but I sympathize for your hurt.” The recent mass-shooting spurred Smissen into action after a realization: “I can’t be numb anymore,” she said.
  2. In a closed-door session before the meeting, Jayapal discussed communication in activism with the student leaders. “Facts will never drive anybody to make a decision, but you need to have them. Never lead with the facts. They’ll believe your heart but not the facts,” said Jayapal.
  3. “Even if you’re 16 or 17-yrs-old, you still have opinions and have the right to be heard. In so many ways adults control our lives, but hey! – At some point we are going to control yours,” said Lucas Illa of attempts by politicians to discredit young voices.
  4. According to activist and high school senior, Katalia Alexander, “4-million youths are going to be new voters in November.”
  5. The topic of constitutional rights led Maple Valley high school senior Rhiannon Rasaretnam, said on the topic of constitutional rights: “Why would we regulate a constitutional right? The constitution is a living and breathing document. You can make changes to it, but you can’t use the 2nd amendment to justify violence against children,” she said.
  6. “Parkland students are speaking-up about a lot of things. While it’s their courage, there were black and brown students before who were also fighting for gun control. There is a deep connection sometimes between two visible and invisible groups suffering,” said Jayapal,
  7. “I am thankful you are talking about this, whether or not I agree with everything you say. I didn’t have any of this courage when I was in high school. I’ve heard a lot of you say we just need to do something but that can sometimes lead to uninformed decisions. I’m a Marine and I deployed back in 2013. I’ve taught firearm instruction to rape victims. My question is do you know the laws well, do you know anything about firearms. Are you willing to reach across the aisle and learn?”
  8. The first direct audience question came from a U.S. History teacher of 25 years in Seattle Schools. “Your participation is breathtaking to me,” the teacher said. “If you were looking at this discussion from other places like France, you would think we are a barbaric nation. You activists have an incredible amount of work to do. Our country is barbaric.”
  9. On her approach to reach people through debate across party lines: “I call it calling people in, not calling people out,” said Jayapal
  10. Including the recent Parkland shooting “Since Sandy Hook (2012), 700 children have lost their lives because of gun violence,” said Jayapal, who added “I’m a proud Democrat but even when we are in control of the government, we haven’t always passed gun control.”
  11. “17 minutes of silence is important but it’s much more important to be loud. Do you think they would rather have me be silent or have me go out into the street and scream as loud as I can? I don’t disregard moments of silence but for me it was important to get as much anger out as we could,” said Smissen, Roosevelt junior. Smissen was a leader of one of the school walk-out protests last week that converged at University of Washington’s red square.
  12. “The house judiciary committee has had zero meetings on gun violence, not a single piece of legislation, not a debate or conversation,” said Jayapal.
  13. “Every time there is a mass shooting, Paul Ryan comes to the house floor and calls for a moment of silence and then they all go hide their head in the sand,” Jayapal said of Republican’s leaders.
  14. “There is no way a constitutional right should ever conflict without right to go to school and solely focus on our education without having to worry about doing an active shooter drill,” said Rhiannon.
  15. Sen. Rebecca Saldana and 6th District Seattle School Board Director Leslie Harris watched from the audience. The discussion of firearm legislation prompted Harris to shout “No armed teachers!” from her second row seat.
  16. The discussion turned to politicians and the notion that the matter of gun control might be better left in the hands of law-makers. “Why would we listen to the ones putting our lives at risk every day,” said Katalia Alexander, organizer and Rainier high school senior.
  17. “There are more than 256-million guns in this country, 37,000-gun homicides last year but we can’t fully study the link between firearms and deaths like we did smoking and cancer because of the Dickey Amendment,” said Jayapal.
  18. The 1996 Dickey Amendment says none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control, so while a study can be conducted, the results cannot be used as evidence of harm, according to the law document. Jayapal is an advocate of overturning the Dickey Amendment to fully examine the role firearms may have on gun violence.

The state attorney’s office for Broward County is seeking the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, 19, who has been indicted on 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree, and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree.

Last Wednesday, students from Capitol Hill and Central District schools joined students from across Seattle in a morning walkout to mark the one-month anniversary of the Parkland mass shooting.

Capitol Hill, Central District students speak out against gun violence for #NationalWalkoutDay

Students from Shorecrest, Bothell, Beacon Hill, Woodinville, Bush, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt, Garfield, Maple Valley, and Ballard high schools attended Saturday’s 90-minute town hall and will head up the Seattle March for Our Lives on Saturday March 24. The march begins at 10:00 AM at Cal Anderson Park and will end with a rally at Key Arena. Expect cold and drizzly conditions. Thousands of students from across the state are expected to attend.

Nine other marches are planned throughout Washington in addition to 819 across the country and worldwide, according to the March for Our Lives organizers. Marchforourlives.com has a searchable field to locate marches by state, including the Washington D.C. demonstration led by Parkland, Florida students.

Rep. Jayapal, whose son graduated from Garfield in 2016, will be meeting with Parkland students this Friday prior the Saturday marches.

Seattle march organizers are also raising money to help pay for logistics around the event — and more.  “We ask the community to help us raise the funds to pay for necessary expenditures such as permits, security, transportation for youth across the state, promotional materials, and to launch the #Raceto18 – a voter registration campaign for teens across America,” the group writes. You can give here.

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