Sophomores Hannah (left) and Sydney en route to the school rally. RoundTable photos

Chanting “hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go,” thousands of Evanston Township High School students on March 14 joined the nationwide student walkout for stronger gun laws.

The morning rally, held at Lazier Field, filled the stadium’s west stands to overflowing. A school official estimated almost all the school’s 3,500 students attended.

“Students were given a choice whether to attend,” said Emma Stein, a senior and the rally’s chief organizer. “It wasn’t a school-sanctioned event but the school helped us. But the vast majority of planning was done by the Student Senate and the school group Students Organized Against Racism.”

“We wanted to keep our students safe as they engage in free speech,” said ETHS Principal and District 202 Assistant Superintendent Marcus Campbell. “We are happy that they are speaking up on the issues that matter to them.”

Emma, who is a senior and president of the Student Senate, was the first of several students to speak. “Today our voices ring out in solidarity with the youth of America,” she said. “Our voices mourn, and our voices demand change. Our voices ring out for Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, Stoneman Douglas and so many more. Our voices ring out for Dajae Coleman, Benjamin Mandujano Bradford, Yakez Semark, Kaylyn Pryor.”

She was followed by Liana Wallace, a junior, whose speech “See Something, Say Something” was delivered with a passionate fervor that alternately stunned and fired up the crowd. (Her speech is reprinted at left.)

The next speaker, Ari Badr, a senior, delivered a stinging rebuke of America’s gun culture. “Our country dismisses people of color as criminals and terrorists and at the same time defends weapons of terror,” he said. “The U.S. disregards real people with heartbeats and brains for cold metal weapons they don’t need.”

Senior Genevieve Lindley noted that ETHS seniors were born in 1999, the same year as the Columbine shootings. “In the 19 years since then, the 19 years within which we have all grown to be the young adults standing here, there have been more than 25 massacres in elementary, middle and high schools all around the country.”

The next speaker, Sofia Garcia, a senior, urged students to take action, and concluded by quoting her dad, who said, “‘Sofia, you can’t even walk into a bar but you can get a gun on your lunch break.’ That is the harsh reality in the United States because for some people their right to own and carry a gun is more important than our safety and our life.  So I’m pleading with you all to please take action, call your reps, your senators, and anyone who you think will fight for us and demand some action…Enough is enough.”

Emma concluded by urging students to “take this moment into the rest of your life. Hold this sense of unity, of empowerment, of whatever you may need in the future. Take this moment into voting booths. Take this momentum, this energy, that I can feel buzzing around the stadium, into further activism….Take control of your voice.”

By Liana Wallace

You said it was mental

a mental illness

something wrong

wrong like a mother who can’t grieve

because the little boy down the street

can buy a gun more easily than a pack

    of cigarettes

Because this is America,

And I’ve learned a thing or two about
         mental illness

How it was harvested

How the bloody skulls belonging to
         men of color would be battered
         against the walls of institutionalized

And yet a diagnosis of mental illness is
       too kind

Oh, but we are blind to the rifle that
         kills school children

To the rifle and to the white man

    holding it

America says mental illness

And mental illness is so real

But its use is purely a secret protecting

    rich to a golden seal

The NRA to its profits

And human life to a deal

Because guns kill people

because guns have been killing my


and their bodies have been piling up on
        the bottom of the Mississippi River

and now babies’ bodies’ blood spills
         over textbooks

how many more babies?

how many shrieks and pops and cracks
        will it take?

For you to find a piece of your soul?

Guns have been killing people

And their names have been forgotten

Medgar Evers,

Philando Castile,

Trayvon Martin

Black lives have never mattered

But now it is clear that kindergarteners,
        that high schoolers

Their lives are less valuable than the profit
         that fills your pockets

In this act you have committed the worst


Uniting white and people of color in a

    blinding frustration

After feeding us to crime

Immigrants’ bodies shoved into detention

Then into communities where light is

And survival is empty bellies

Which you have fed and filled

With the guns you sold us

guns kill people

and you don’t seem to care which

   communities they kill anymore

It’s come to my attention you intend to

   save us with more guns

Instead of life you force death to fight

Placing guns in the hands of our


In an effort to protect us

But all that we need protecting from
        is you

you who do not know the basic

    laws of light

that darkness cannot drive out darkness –
         only light can do that

You said thoughts and prayers

Was it thoughts and prayers

that you hoped to save us with?

you told us to see something
           say something

you said see something say something

dear founding fathers

our founding fathers

did you see this?

When you left scratched into the Constitution

a well-regulated militia

could you see that barrels of bullets
        would fly through windows where

   education was intended

could you not see the way a president’s
       clothes would become drenched in


his pockets full with each dollar bill that
         the NRA provided

could you not see it?

Have you forgotten the lives

Do you not hear their names when

   you sleep?

Can you not hear the bullets that
         blaze through to take breath



Scott Beigel

Martin Anguiano

And those under the age of 10

Do you not hear their laughter being

   pulled out into blackness

Their voices crying this land was made
        for you in me

Charlotte Bacon

Ana Greene

Noah Pozner

Can you not hear them

Could you not see this?

You said, “See something, say something”

they say, “See something say something”

the school children we see something

the college students they see something

Emma Gonzalesz she sees something

tomorrow he sees something

and we are saying something

we are saying something

will you say something?

We will organize

we will shut down schools

we will protest

and yell


History will tell the story

And your true colors will bleed
         through its books

And off of the lips of those

   who refuse to forget

We hear stolen lives laughter and
         we hold it

We will not exist in silence

we will not live in a world,

in a society

where human life is worthless

We see something

On our founding fathers and on
        the pockets that keep the rich full

We will continue to say something.

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...