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After violent school week, Aurora youth gather for 'state of emergency' town hall

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After two shootings involving students in the span of five days, community members—led by the youth—came together to discuss possible solutions. Aurora.
Dozens of children gathered Sunday, November 21 to discuss solutions to the recent violence in their community.

AURORA, Colo. — When six high school students were injured in a shooting near Aurora Central High School on November 15, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said “enough is enough.”

But four days later, the familiar pain of gun violence returned: three students were shot outside Hinkley High School on Friday, November 19. It was a bloody bookend to the school week.

Thankfully, none of the injuries were life-threatening. But the violence shook the community.

On Sunday, November 21, Wilson and community leaders organized a “state of emergency” town hall event to hear from the people most affected by the recent gun violence: the youth.

Aurora teen violence town hall

Dozens of youth gathered in Aurora to discuss solutions to recent violence.

“I want to hear their voices,” Omar Montgomery said of the kids in the crowd. Montgomery is the president of the NAACP’s Aurora chapter. “I don’t want to hear a bunch of adults. I want to hear the [kids’] voice, hear how we can protect them, how we can work with them.”

The discussion took place at the Jurisdiction of Colorado Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Aurora.

One young girl who spoke at the town hall explained that many young people she knows seem to keep their feelings bottled up, and she was wondering what ideas the crowd had that would help young people better express their feelings.

Another teenager drew applause from the crowd as she spoke from the lectern.

“It doesn’t start with me; I’m almost 18,” she said, addressing the adults in the room. “You need to start with those 11-year-old kids who are at home and they see their siblings in their rooms—they see the guns, they see the drugs, they see the gang signs written in notebooks. You need to start with them. I’m grown.”

She continued: “I’ve already seen and I’ve already been through all that trauma. You need to start with those kids. Because when I was nine years old and my father passed away and I had to go to elementary school not knowing how to do anything, there was no one there for me. I’m sorry, but there wasn’t.”

Elder Rufus Lewis with the Church of God in Christ said that if violence and trauma in the community goes unchecked or undiscussed, it just escalates and worsens.

“We really want the young people to know that they have a voice and it is okay for them to express how they feel,” he said.

“Our youth are out there struggling with a lot of different trauma, and that trauma is resulting in the violence,” Montgomery added. “So we as the community need to come together, have a critical discussion, and develop a plan so that no more lives are lost.”

[Related: Aurora, Denver politicians announce gun buyback effort in response to recent violence]

Wilson also spoke at the event. She informed the crowd that three 16-year-old male suspects were arrested on attempted murder charges for the shooting at Hinkley HS.

One young boy who spoke at the town hall summed up his message to other kids in just a few words: “I just want to say this: don’t be a killer. Be somebody who you want to be.”

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