"We Raise Our Voices for Action"
March 14, 2018 — The blustery morning turned sunny at 9:55, just as hundreds of Middle and Upper School students poured out of the wooden doors of Founders Hall's toward several huddles of adults — camera crews from NBC, CNN, and a Japanese news network.
Chanting, with signs aloft, they turned toward Columbus Park on the north side of Borough Hall, greeted by a honks from several passing cars. From every direction streamed other groups of students to join them.
A few minutes past 10 a.m., the Brooklyn Heights #NationalSchoolWalkout and public demonstration began.
Organizers Drew Myers '18, Sarah De Souza '18, Ali Acevedo '18, and Susanna Phillips-Falk '18 took to the podium.
"Today marks one month since the shooting in Parkland, Florida. We are gathered here today in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. Additionally, it is important that when we refer to gun violence, we do not overlook the impact of police brutality and militarized policing in black and brown communities."
The organizers read the names of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting, followed by a moment of silence.
In the two hours that followed, the crowd listened raptly — and cheered and chanted — in response to impassioned speeches by 18 students from over a dozen independent and public schools, as well as St. Francis College and Brooklyn Law School.
Some of the crowd's loudest cheers were reserved for the prominent adults who took to the microphone: the city officials whom the Packer organizers had invited, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James.
The four seniors who organized and produced the event were joined by Abe Rothstein '21 and Sam Levine '21, who wrangled two dozen speakers while the seniors were at the podium (and being interviewed by the media).
Millie Howard '21, and Middle School students Francesca Komar '22, Mia-Nathalie Pridgen '22, Lucy Anderson '22 and Naaz Valvani '21, also assisted in planning the event. In large part due to the demonstrated leadership and careful planning of the student organizers, Middle and Upper School classes were cancelled during the event.
Packer's Middle and Upper School Offices estimated that 700 Packer students and dozens of faculty and staff participated in the walkout.
In remarks to Will Landau '19, who produced a video about the event for a video of the event for The Prism, Head of School Dr. Bruce Dennis said, "I just could not be more proud of our kids."
Excerpts of the remarks of the Packer speakers:
Organizers Sarah DeSouza, Savannah Phillips-Falk, Aliana Acevedo, Drew Myers:
We raise our voices for action against all forms of gun violence. We as students along with our allies demand that Congress pass legislation to protect us. It is our elected officials' jobs to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that will address the public crisis of gun violence.
We do not see police in schools or arming our teachers with guns as a solution. Gun reform legislation is the solution. Thorough and effective background checks are the solution. Actually listening to the people that this is affecting is the solution.
It is time for our elected officials to step up to the plate. It is time for our elected officials to fit their job description as representatives for us, as citizens, as children, and as Americans.
When did arms become assault rifles? Yes, we have the right to bear arms, but we also have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Gianna Leon '22:
Lucy Anderson '22:
Our country should lead with peace, not hate.
We are marching for our lives,
We are marching for those we've lost,
We are marching so our children don't have to.
We are marching for change. what those boys don't know won't hurt them
15,577. The number of people killed at the hand of a gun in 2017 alone. That's 15,577 families torn apart.15,577 tears shed; and 15,577 times our government failed to protect us.
Khaja Daniel '21:
I'll tell you the story of a little girl I used to know. Five years ago her father was shot by a man with a criminal record and who later was convicted of a previous murder. He will spend the rest of his life in a hospital bed miles away because a convicted felon was somehow able to obtain an assault weapon and shoot a man at point blank range. From that day forward she became a person I did not recognize, one who used to have faith in the world and the people in it but her vision was now blurred by evil.
The little girl is me. And I did not and do not deserve to grow up in a world without my father because my country refuses to protect me.
Abby Wade '18:
Attention students this is only a drill
Lock all doors, close all blinds, silence your cell phones, and hid
But it's only time until our monthly shooter drills,
Turn into months and months of mourning
In health class,
I'm taught about the dangers of alcohol and drugs
My adolescent mind is not yet mature enough to handle such a lethal substance
But tell me then Mr President
How is that brain capable of purchasing a semi-automatic rifle
A rifle that shoots so quickly
That it can only be used for mass murder and destruction
Tell me Mr President
When is enough enough
This is not a drill
There are innocent eyes looking down the barrel
This is not a drill
This is not a drill
Destin Davis '18:
they'll never learn of their purpose
what those boys dont know won't hurt them
strange fruit in the name of churches
what's the difference?
aren't they the same?
a dead man's a dead man
the only question is "who's to blame?"
genocidal thought-provoking evil with a fan base
yeah what those boys dont know wont hurt them
but it'll kill them and no one will even blink
whether it's the 17 Souls that have us crying
Trayvon the fda or everyone with hateful bias
those 20 Little Babies with guns that were made for Soldiers
or Philando's lynching don't let them tell you it's over
or 16 shots in my back to settle a score
or holocaustal tendencies coming straight from the core
or Aurora, Colorado or anybody who's evil
a person is a person so why don't we act like we're people?