Gig Harbor students find support, opposition to walkout, protest

GIG HARBOR, Wash. – Students from at least one Pierce County high school took their walk-out rallies well into the afternoon Wednesday.

Many kids from Gig Harbor High School marched into downtown, where their rally gathered both support and criticism.

And while most of these kids appeared to have received positive support, there were some who took issue with some of their messages.

Wednesday morning, hundreds of high school students began their walkout with a 17-minute long moment of silence, to honor the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre.

“I feel increasingly unsafe when these shootings just continue to happen,” said organizer Griffin Bird.

About a dozen students took their walkout onto the streets of Gig Harbor, carrying messages demanding change.

“It’s showing that we really do stand for what we believe in,” Bird said. “We’re not just students trying to get out of school, we’re students who are willing to take that consequence to get changes.”

Some parents lined the route, many sharing support.

“The teenagers are actually taking the initiative,” parent Esmeralda Martinez said. “They’re not just sitting down.”

“It was on my street,” neighbor Mary Jane Tarabochia said. “I just wanted them to know there are adults, older people, who support what they’re doing.”

The walkout ended at the Harbor History Museum and continued with a voter registration drive and a community forum.

“It’s been pretty crazy, we’ve had a lot of people protesting against us,” said junior Lily Tebb.

“I lean more right-wing, I lean more pro-gun,” Gig Harbor resident and Seattle high school senior Jake Welty said.

Welty walked out of his Seattle classroom to engage other students advocating for various forms of gun control.

“We can all agree that school shootings need to stop in general,” he said, “We need better background checks, better mental health awareness.”

But Welty worried the movement could evolve into an attempt to curtail his rights to own firearms.

“The purpose of the Second Amendment is to, yes, protect against home invasion, to hunt, but it’s mainly to prevent against potential government tyranny,” he said.

It was the sharing of opposing viewpoints like that which organizers hoped the walkout would spur – and provide a chance for everyone to find common ground.

“The main goal is to really just start the conversation about what can be done to address the problem in our country,” Bird said.

Organizers say they also held a letter-writing campaign so students who participated in the walkout could send their messages demanding safe schools to lawmakers.