In another spirited stance against gun violence, a small group of Bay Area students on Tuesday staged a die-in outside City Hall to mark the two-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting that claimed 49 lives.
A little over a dozen Bay Area students outside City Hall joined a national die-in demonstration in honor of the Pulse shooting anniversary along with the 2017 Las Vegas festival shooting, Parkland shooting in February and “every other firearm-related death” before Tuesday’s demonstration at Civic Center Plaza. Promptly at 5:30 p.m., the 14 students — 15 including an occasionally participating young photographer — suddenly dropped to the ground for 12 minutes while another one sang Nina Simone.
“We’re the only developing country that has to deal with this,” said 15-year-old Maya Seagal, who attends Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough. “We can’t fix this by blaming video games.”
Teenagers nationwide have turned their collective voices into a loud chorus against gun violence and politicians who fail to address it in the wake of the Parkland, Fla. shooting on Feb. 14. Survivors have challenged elected officials in embarrassing town halls and led March for Our Lives in Washington among other actions that have come to represent a shift in political will on the issue.
San Francisco students also joined the National School Walkout movement on March 14, which encouraged kids to step out of class for 17 minutes — one minute for each person killed during the Parkland shooting the previous month. Many continued in the rain to a rally at the steps of City Hall and march on Market Street to surprised, smiling passersby.
“We are scared but we can no longer let fear control us,” Emily Montiel, a student at Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, told the cheering crowd in March. “All great things have started with student voice.”
That student voice in 2018 has consistently gone beyond school shootings to police brutality, gang violence, and suicides — all touched by firearms. Above all, the recurring message has been to vote for change with registration drives at anti-gun violence events.
Student organizers have also had consistently sharp words for politicians unwilling or motivated to bring forward what the Bay Area National Die-In chapter calls “bipartisan common sense gun reform.” At the rally on Tuesday, organizer and student Jake Cohen pointed out that the mayoral votes were being tallied in City Hall, which they faced for the die-in.
“To whoever that may be…if you’re not with us every step of the way, there will be hell to pay,” Cohen said. “We are dying.”
For longtime supporters of gun reform, the energy and momentum of youth organizers in 2018 has melted away long-ingrained cynicism that legislators wouldn’t prioritize public safety over lobbying money from the National Rifle Association. The national die-in on Tuesday served as another reminder that gun violence is not an issue that this generation will be silent on anytime soon.
“We have the power to make change,” said 15-year-old Isha Clarke, a student at Metwest High School in Oakland. “A life is worth more than any amount of money.”