SEATTLE – Hundreds of students from Seattle's Franklin High School rallied Friday in protest of gun violence after losing one of their own.
Ryan Dela Cruz, 17, was shot and killed by random gunfire while hanging out with friends in Martha Washington Park last weekend. Ryan’s classmates took their grief and frustration to the streets to demand their south Seattle neighborhood becomes safe for everyone.
Wearing orange ribbons and T-shirts, the students rallied with a demand that shootings in the southend will no longer be tolerated.
“Gun violence has become business as usual for us and what happens is our community tends to keep going and just accepts the trauma,” said Nikkita Oliver, who spoke to students gathered before the rally. “And we all today, we are telling our community we are going to stop, we are going to pause. We are going to remember Ryan and we’re also going to use our voices to talk about what we need to stop gun violence in our community.”
“We want to stand, this is where we go to school, where we live,” said senior Kayla Taylor. “This just not acceptable.”
Ryan’s classmates say he was a dreamer and one day he dreamed of a career as a U.S Marine. Early morning last Saturday, police say, he was shot three times in a city park after a car pulled up to Ryan and his friends and opened fire.
“He wasn’t able to live out that dream fully but we’re doing the dreaming for him,” said Taylor.
On Friday his classmates took Ryan’s dream and poured onto the streets holding signs and chanting slogans.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” said freshman Jermaine Hawkins. “That could have been one of us. Could have been anyone else right here, it could have been me.”
“The south end is so impacted by violence than any other part of Seattle and we see that in our community every day,” said junior Nicole Perry. “It just took a tragic event that happened to one of our students to push us to make a change.”
“It’s going to take the children to bring us back to humanity,” said Zoe Moore, a mother and neighbor in Seattle’s southend community.
Moore says she couldn’t do enough to keep her daughter from committing suicide with a gun – now she hopes the high school students can impact policymakers to focus on mental health issues and reduce the number of easily accessible firearms.
“I tried to get help for her and it failed me,” she said.
“I’m doing this for Ryan,” said freshman Keit Duong.
Many students believe if their voices are loud enough, and heard by the right people, the powerful may create a community safe for everyone without the threat of gun violence.
"We’re trying to look for change and have change in the community,” said Hawkins. “This shouldn’t happen, this shouldn’t happen to anybody."