River Ridge High School in Lacey was put on heightened alert earlier this month after someone found a threatening note in a bathroom that referenced a gun. It turned out to be nothing, but freshman Leann Lechadores’ eyes fill with tears just talking about it.
“I just didn’t know if I was going to live or not live,” she recalled Saturday before the start of March For Our Lives Olympia. She held a sign that read “Never Again.”
Thousands turned out for the rally and march against gun violence and school shootings. The crowd — about 4,500 people, according to Washington State Patrol — gathered on the steps of the Capitol, then marched down Capitol Way to Sylvester Park in front of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Olympia’s event was one of hundreds of demonstrations that took place across the country Saturday to coincide with a larger student-led march in Washington, D.C. The marches come less than two weeks after thousands of students took part in a national school walkout to honor the 17 victims of a shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school in February.
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In Olympia, students addressing the crowd quoted the Constitution, Gandhi and Tupac Shakur in their calls for lawmakers to take action. Kardel Arnold, a senior at Olympia High School, said the event was not just a reaction to the shooting in Parkland, but to all gun violence.
“March For Our Lives is a human fight, not a student fight,” he said. “We must do all that we can to protect the lives of our children today.”
Angela Chisa, 16, a sophomore at Olympia High School, came to the rally with her mom and younger sister. She wants to see stricter background checks on gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons, and an end to the calls to arm teachers.
“I think it’s pretty ridiculous that we have to continue to protest this. The only reason to have assault weapons is to kill people,” she said.
As for whether anything will change as a result of Saturday’s actions, she said, “I’m optimistic it might happen, but I’m not sure.”