In fewer than 48 hours, American Heritage seniors Sydnie Rathe, Nicholas Fonseca and Faith Ward organized a school-wide protest for gun control in response to last week’s deadly massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD). The seniors cited the Not One More rally for firearm safety legislation at the Federal Courthouse Feb. 17 as inspiration for their protest.
“After listening to MSD survivor David Hogg speak at the rally and call for other schools to host protests on Presidents’ Day because there was no school, we stopped and thought ‘okay, we can do that,’” Ward said. “It comes from a place of anger and frustration with our government at the inaction we’ve seen through all these years.”
Ward, Fonseca and Rathe began planning the protest on the Saturday evening after the rally, communicating with school administration and local police to secure Monday, Feb. 19 as the date and the sidewalk outside school as the venue. Upon obtaining approval, the three students spent all of Sunday gathering supplies for the event, corresponding with leaders of the #NeverAgain movement who attend MSD and contacting news stations to ensure the event received televised coverage to convey its message.
“We really did everything in about 36 hours, but it was the passion of the students at our school and across the area that really made this work,” Fonseca said. “Without them and their active interest and willpower, none of this would have been possible.”
On Feb. 19, the date of the protest, approximately 200 students, faculty members and advocates from other schools showed up between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. bearing signs with various messages, coming together as they all called for the universal theme of tighter firearm safety regulations. Ward, Fonseca and Rathe also distributed maroon wristbands to symbolize MSD’s school color, contributing to the protestors’ vigor.
“I’m here because enough is enough,” senior Emily Meyers and protester at the event said. “School is supposed to be for education and growth. It shouldn’t be a place where you fear for your life. It just as easily could have been us.”
Ward, Fonseca and Rathe considered the protest successful in conveying its message and showing solidarity.
“As a community, I think we’ve all felt things changing. Students are tired of their voices being ignored on issues where our lives are at stake and they’re taking a stand,” Rathe said. “This isn’t just a school, a community or a state speaking. It’s an entire nation of students mobilizing and demanding that our voices be heard.”