Denver Students Gun Violence Protest

MWS - Denver Students Gun Protest Photo

 

On the Denver Students Gun Violence Protest…

Note: This is not a political piece. I am writing as an observer. I will share bits and pieces of my opinion at the end, but I believe my purpose here was to observe and report the impactful event that happened today on March Wednesday, March 14th in Denver Colorado.

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This morning as I was making my morning tea I heard an up roaring of people from outside my building. I quickly grabbed my recorder and headphones and followed suit. When I stepped outside I saw a mob of hundreds of young people marching through the streets towards the Capitol Building. There was a certain excitement in the way they were walking. Many of them were wearing their backpacks, which told me that they were students.

I can remember being a high schooler and the feeling of excitement over anything not school related happening on a given day. Whether it was a fight at school, a rally, a basketball game happening that night, or a party that was being arranged for the weekend; anything that would take our minds off of the dreaded school work was something to be excited about. All of this said, I can relate to the emotions these kids were feeling as they marched out of school towards the Capitol Building.

I was surprised when we walked a few blocks that all of the traffic had been stopped. Police had blocked off the streets, and it seemed the peaceful protest was being met with open arms by the powers at hand. As we turned the corner and the Capitol Building was revealed, there was a great cheer from the students proclaiming their presence and confirming their cause. As we approached the Capitol Building I saw working adults leaving their respective buildings – them too, intrigued by the uproar of voices. Some of them took out their phones and recorded the scene, others cheered us on. Suddenly I realized I was now a part of this.

Some students were already there at the Capitol Building, gathered around the staircase leading up to the building. They were chanting and getting people fired up. I arrived in the middle of the pack. I found a nice place where I could be away from the crowd as to remain an observer, yet close enough to record some good audio. I perched myself on a fence in the middle of the crowd, back about 20 yards from the stairs where the bulk of the action was happening. With headphones on, I listened.

“What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now”, the crowd chanted.

Some students, who seemed to be leading the protest, had megaphones that they were using to project their voices across the noisy crowd. Many others were just yelling out. I heard chants like…

“No more silence, no more violence. No more silence, no more violence!”

“We will vote! We will vote!”

“Protect kids, not guns. Protect kids, not guns.”

“Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?”

“Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.”

As more and more people piled in for the cause – not just students, but teachers and other adults as well – I looked back and was amazed by the sheer numbers that had showed up. Hundreds if not a thousand people were now gathered outside of the Capitol Building. Government workers and officials had now started to come outside of the building to look at the scene. I wasn’t sure how they felt about it all as they looked down at the crowd. Perhaps they were unwelcoming to the noise and disruption that gathered outside of their place of work. Perhaps they were inspired that a group of young people in such a large number were able to organize and rally around such an important topic. I wasn’t exactly sure, until a young woman spoke over the megaphone commanding the crowd to be quiet for we were about to hear from Governor John Hickenlooper.

I will post the audio from Governor Hickenlooper’s speech here:

 

His message was brief but welcoming. I learned that the Governor was very receptive to the protest, and that he was grateful for the students assembling for an important cause. Now whether his message was just a “political dodge” to make things run smoothly or not is hard to say; however I would like to believe that he was sincere. After all, there was no harm done in a peaceful protest and any Governor should understand the rights of the people to express the First Amendment. Shortly after, he went into the crowd and began taking some pictures with the students acting as a liaison between the students and the government. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the students and they told me that they felt happy about the protest and that they believed it had been successful. The students told me that they felt the establishment had heard their voices.

Boom. Democracy!

Shortly after, the crowd started to dissipate as the students and teachers returned back to their school.

As I sit back and reflect on this powerful event that happened today, a few thoughts come to mind…

How powerful is it when people gather together? I had the opportunity to witness the Women’s March in Denver a few weeks ago and realized this first hand. When large numbers of people gather together from different backgrounds and walks of life, and get behind a common message, it can be very impactful. Not only does it help spread their message but it also gives the people hope. Hope that their voices can be heard, and that still “we the people” have power in this democracy in the USA.

What’s next? When all of this is said and done, no matter how cool it was to witness this ‘students protest’, it still begs the question, “what’s next?”. How can they actually make a difference? Is it just more noise? Or do the people actually create change? I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but it’s a question that resonates through me during all of this. From what I hear, the most important thing to do next is to educate yourself on the laws and the government officials who are in power to create and change those laws, and then hit the polls. Voting is the most powerful tool we have as a democracy to create change. So, that means understanding who you are voting for and what moral values they have, as well as what parties they belong to and who they are connected with.

Lastly, a thought that lingers during the aftermath of this protest is one of sadness. It’s powerful that our students are taking to the streets for a topic that is so relevant, yet part of me can’t help but to feel sad at all of this. In my opinion, kids shouldn’t have to worry about changing gun laws. What happened to just being a high schooler and worrying about your next test, or the boy/girl that you like? Now kids are worrying about gun laws in school?? That’s crazy to me. That’s why I’m saddened by this whole thing. The adults in charge have not been able to get it together so now the kids of the next generation will try to.

I’m always hopeful that things will turn around, but this topic in particular seems to a tougher one then most. What should we actually do? Is there anything we can do? There will always be crazy people in this world who want to hurt people. Can we ever stop mass shootings from happening? Should we try to pretend like we can? Should teachers carry weapons and every school have armed guards? Who will pay for that? What sort of repercussions will that have?

It’s a heavy topic for sure. All I know is that when enough people care about a topic like this, we will see a forward movement towards change. And I believe events like what happened outside of the Capitol Building in Denver today make an impact on the hearts and minds of the people in this city and around the country. Im certainly grateful for this eye opening experience, it has made me consider a lot of things I normally wouldn’t. We are definitely in interesting times right now!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’d love to hear some feedback if you have the time.

Cheers,

Mitch Wenig

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