STOCKTON — Thousands of Stockton high school students walked out of their classrooms Wednesday morning as part of the National School Walkout with a united message that they have had enough of gun violence and they expect to see the adults in charge make some changes.

Each of the demonstrations at various high schools — Chavez, Edison, Franklin, Lincoln and Stagg — was organized by the students and was unique to each campus. But all appeared to be orderly, with no criminal activity reported to Stockton police and no one leaving campus to protest.

Organizers such as Edison High seniors Gloria Alonso, 17, and Celin Corpuz, 18, were in their ethnic studies class when the topic of activism came up. They came to the conclusion that many of their peers are confused by all the rhetoric swirling around the earlier protests sparked by the Florida high school massacre.

“By organizing this action for students by students, we realize how important social movements are,” Corpuz said. Together with junior Rogelio Vivero, 17, the three activists pulled together a crew of about 60 to 80 students to help them stage a demonstration and put on a program that made their message clear.

In addition to student speakers, Edison’s program included representatives from Cleveland School Remembers, an anti-violence organization formed in the aftermath of the 1989 school shooting at the central Stockton elementary school that left five children dead.

Vivero believed the walkout at Edison made the message clear: “I felt like a lot of students learned the issue about gun violence in our community, and I felt like right here in Stockton we should take more part in it because it happened here first.

“Cleveland Elementary was one of the first schools where a mass shooting happened. And a lot of my family here and friends feel like we should take part in this movement because it happened to us. Our generation is the generation to step up and finally voice our opinions,” Vivero said.

“I hope students all across the nation understand that this is in our hands, this is our matter because of the 17 lives in Parkland. Those weren’t just any regular students, those were friends, those were our family. So here in high school or any school, we are all a big family and we should all watch out for each other. And that’s the important message I think we conveyed today,” he said.

Edison’s walkout began quietly with several dozen students standing quietly along an outdoor walkway leading to the school gymnasium while holding handmade signs with messages reading “We Stand With Cleveland Elementary,” “Rise Up As 1,” “Edison Says No to Guns,” “Schools Not Prisons,” “No More Silence, End Gun Violence,” “Pull Laws Not Triggers,” and “We Rise With Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”

Their silence was broken by chants of “Never Again,” “Keep Our Schools Safe,” “Hear Our Voice,” and “We Are Students, Not Targets,” as most of the student body of about 2,000 left their classrooms and filed past.

Once inside the gym, the large gathering appeared focused on what their fellow students had to say.

Wearing a T-shirt with the words “Know History, Know Self,” Aizlrose Albon, 17, the student government director of multicultural affairs, opened the program:

“This rally is not so we can just get out of class. Our community has a lot of gun violence history and it’s been such a long time since the government has done something.”

Vivero provided the keynote address. “I believe every student in the SUSD, every student in the nation should be able to walk into school and walk out without having the fear that their life is going to be taken away at school,” he said to vigorous applause.

Student Body President Alondra Manzo, 16, recalled the tragedy of Stockton’s Cleveland Elementary School shooting of Jan. 17, 1989, in contrast with the Feb. 14, 2018, Florida school massacre. “They happened 3,000 miles apart and 30 years apart. It could happen to anyone, anywhere. It could happen to us if we don’t make change.”

Then the students got a firsthand history lesson from Cleveland Elementary shooting survivor Sue Rothman, a former teacher who held little back in describing the horrors of that day as bullets flew through her kindergarten classroom.

“I’m angry and I don’t understand,” Rothman said, frustrated that with each subsequent school shooting a lot of words are exchanged but little to no progress is made in curbing the violence. “It’s time to make change in the United States of America.”

In uniting with the National Student Walkout, the students at Edison and other Stockton high schools are “insisting that Congress legislate strong federal background checks for all firearm purchases; ban the sale of all military-style semiautomatic assault weapons; and ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines,” according to a joint statement.

 

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/goldeenblog and on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.