DENVER —A sea of Denver East High School students decked in school colors marched from their school on Denver’s East Colfax to the Colorado State Capitol Friday morning, enduring frigid temperatures and crossing busy roads.
Students chanted “no more silence, end gun violence,” “safe schools now,” and “Luis Garcia,” as they marched the nearly two-mile trek after walking out of classes Friday.
The reason for the protest, students said, is all too familiar: gun violence.
“I’d like to feel safe at school. I don’t want to go to school and have to worry about someone with a gun trying to come and kill my classmates,” said Joshua Carroll, a 15-year-old freshman carrying a paper sign that read “complacency kills.”
The student protest came after Luis Garcia’s death on Wednesday. Garcia, 16 and a East High School student, was shot inside his car near the school, school officials wrote in a written statement.
Garcia played soccer, performed well academically and enjoyed hanging out with other students in the school. Students who protested Friday said his life ended far too soon and they will not continue to live in a world where gun violence plagues society.
“It shouldn't have happened. He was just a kid. He didn’t do anything,” said Oliver Nguyen, a 15-year-old freshman. “We just need more restrictions on guns, because right now, I feel like almost anyone can have a gun, and there's a lot of people who will do bad things with them.”
The protest fell on the annual Moms Demand Action Day at the Capitol — in which a local chapter of the national gun reform group pleads with legislators to pass stricter gun laws. Representatives from the chapter said they’re pleased with actions the state has already taken — stricter red flag laws, raising the minimum age of gun ownership and a waiting period before purchasing a gun — but believe more action is still due, as Colorado continues to lead the nation in number of mass shootings per capita.
“More guns correlate with more shootings,” said Carol Callicott-Belmon, a local representative with Moms Demand Action. “Knowing that we live in a country that is protecting guns more than they’re protecting children is a really scary place to be.”
Olive Cole, an East High School soccer player who played alongside Garcia, said he was kind, friendly and often helped coaches clean up supplies after practice. Most of all, Cole said, he loved soccer and his chance to continue pursuing the sport was needlessly cut short.
“This loose gun control thing is just not safe and it’s not working,” Cole said. “When the loudspeaker comes on, I just suspect it’s going to be about guns or lockdown. We’re all so used to it at this point that we’re just numb to it.”
Colorado saw 16 mass shootings in 2022, according to the website Mass Shooting Tracker.
Students also felt they would have rather been playing sports, learning in class or spending time with friends instead of protesting gun violence at such a young age. But that’s the nature of being a child amidst a gun violence epidemic, they felt.
“One life is worth more than all the guns on the earth,” said Olivia Nusbaum, 16. “People need to realize that."
Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.