Nearly 100 San Ramon Valley high school students, accompanied by a smattering of parents, marched down Bollinger Canyon Road in San Ramon on Friday afternoon to protest gun violence in the United States.
The event, held both to memorialize the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims and to advocate for gun reform, was organized by a group of sophomores at Dougherty Valley High School, and joins larger movement across the country, largely driven by teens.
The march began around 4:30 p.m., the teens carrying anti-gun violence signs and chanting “We want change” and “NRA go away.” Their walk garnered supportive honks from many passing drivers on the well-traveled thoroughfare.
The teens stopped just short of the Target complex at Bishop Ranch, at which point they turned around and returned to San Ramon City Hall for a memorial and open-microphone session.
To commemorate the lives of the 14 students and three staff members who were killed in the Parkland shooting, students let loose 17 black balloons, one-by-one after organizer Nathan Nguyen read each victim’s name aloud.
At the open-mic session, students spoke on a variety of subjects, voicing frustrations with politicians and societal leaders for failing to address the root causes of the many school shootings that have taken place in recent years.
“It’s time now,” said Jill Lee, another of the sophomore organizers. “We owe that much to the friends and family of the 17 individuals whose lives were lost.”
She recalled speaking five months ago on the exact same topic in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, and criticized politicians who “denounced the politicizing of such tragedy, who sent thoughts and prayers to the victims’ families, who have received in total over $25 million from the NRA, who said their hands were tied by an amendment, historical amendment that did not take into account the invention of semi-automatics capable of firing over 150 rounds a minute.”
Bella Chaves, another of the sophomore leaders, used to live in Broward County and spoke about Nicholas Dworet, who was on her swim team -- and who was one of the 17 shot and killed during the Feb. 14 mass shooting.
“In truth, there is no best course of action,” she said, referring to Code Red drills and established school protocols to respond to a gunman on campus. “There can be procedures and rules, and codes written in rulebooks from coast to coast. But there will never be a course of action that will effectively protect the children in the schools of this country, until this country decides that their lives are the number one priority.”
The march and rally came days before many Tri-Valley high-schoolers are expected to take part in National School Walkout Day on Wednesday, also in support of gun control and reform.
Linda Nguyen, the mother of Nathan Nguyen, said that her son wanted to organize the event because he is passionate about school safety and wants students to have a voice, even though they can’t vote.
“They’re making a difference,” she said.