Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Students show solidarity with nationwide walkout


March 15, 2018

Keegan Palmieri and Morgan Cloke lead Haines students in the National School Walkout Wednesday morning followed by about 30 community members. Kyle Clayton photo.

About 25 high school students and 30 community members joined the National School Walkout Wednesday morning in support of families affected by recent shootings.

Senior Keegan Palmieri, student council secretary, led the march with sophomore and student council spirit president Morgan Cloke.

The walkout started on the school's front steps at 10 a.m. Palmieri said students were walking to show support not only for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which occurred a month ago, but also for the shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine and more.

"We're coming together to say 'We're here for you,'" Palmieri said.

He said the walkout was entirely student driven and did not reflect the feelings of school faculty or staff.

Cloke read the names of the 17 people who died in Parkland before the group walked on sidewalks around the block in the rain. Students led the walkout, with community members behind them, up Haines Highway, Third Avenue, Main Street and Allen Road back to the school's front door. The walkout participants spent 17 minutes in silence, one minute to commemorate each person who died in Parkland.

Cloke said she felt it was right as a leader in student government to carry out the wants of the student body.

"My job is to do what's right," Cloke said. She said the walkout was powerful and beautiful. "I'm happy to have supported it."

When asked how he felt about being part of a national movement meant to effect changes to gun regulations, Palmieri said each person and school that organized a walkout had different reasons for doing so.

"Haines is walking for safety in schools and to promote awareness for gun violence," Palmieri said.

Sophomore Dominic Stossel said he participated in the walkout to march for change.

"It's important to me. Gun violence is a big issue that's been going on, not just recently. There's no obvious solution, but it's coming to a head right now and it needs to be thought about," Stossel said.

The national event was organized by Women's March Youth Empower, which took up the hashtag #Enough. According to the website, more than 3,100 walkouts took place nationwide.

Thousands of students showed up on the steps of their state's capitol buildings, held signs and marched for stricter gun laws.

The website lists four demands for legislators: to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales, pass a gun-violence, restraining-order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior, and stop militarizing law enforcement.

Resident Melissa Aronson said the community members were there as individuals to support the students.

"I was an educator for 42 years in secondary schools," Aronson said. "I'm proud of students nationally for taking a stand and forcing the government to change. Lots of people in this town care about our kids and support them in many ways."

Assembly member Heather Lende, who walked with the students, shook Palmieri's hand after the walkout to thank him for his bravery.

George Figdor said seeing the students step up is encouraging.

"I think it's important because the new generation of young people are being very courageous and articulate," Figdor said. "They are trying to communicate a very powerful message to the adults who are in the process of leaving them a world where there's violence that they don't want to put up with. They inspire me, so I wanted to be there to support them."


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