A group of students are planning a rally called “We Won’t Be Next” at Occidental Square in Seattle
Alicia Heia joined thousands of students who walked out of their schools and marched at rallies across the nation last month to call for stricter gun laws after the deadly February shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
On Friday, the senior at Seattle’s Ingraham High will take part in another walkout and anti-gun violence rally, this time focused on other forms of gun violence outside of schools – homicides, suicides and domestic violence – that don’t always attract attention in the way school shootings do.
“One percent of gun-related deaths are from mass shootings,” said Heia, 18. “We have to remember the other 99 percent.”
With that goal in mind, Heia and a group of students are planning a rally called “We Won’t Be Next” at Occidental Square in Seattle Friday afternoon. Students at more than 30 schools throughout the region, from Marysville to Mukilteo to Burien, are expected to attend. Some will also be staging walkouts at their schools before joining other students at the rally.
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“We Won’t Be Next” coincides with the National School Walkout, walkouts held to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. On April 20, 1999, 13 people were killed at their Littleton, Colorado, school by two shooters, who then turned the guns on themselves. It was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history – until the Parkland shooting, which left 17 dead.
Both “Columbine” and “Parkland” have become household names, but other deadly gun violence is forgotten, said Niko Battle, a junior at Kamiak High in Mukilteo and rally organizer. Those who are frequently affected by gun violence might not feel like they can speak up, or feel they’re not heard if they do speak up, Heia added, citing media coverage of school shootings versus other shootings.
“Often the students who go home from school and live with gun violence and then go to school and still deal with the fear don’t get enough representation,” Battle said. “I feel like ‘We Won’t Be Next’ strives to include that representation.”
The rally will feature a panel of city and elected officials to talk and answer questions about gun violence. Panelists include Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best and state Sen. Rebecca Saldana, D-Seattle.
Many of the goals of the “We Won’t Be Next” rally mirror the goals of the past marches. But organizers added a few other objectives to their list, including requiring a gun-safety course to obtain a firearm for the first time and a limit on the number of guns a person can buy in one year.
The March For Our Lives and “We Won’t Be Next” rally both call for raising the age to 21 for buying all semi-automatic firearms and assault-style weapons. In 2016, Allen Ivanov, 19, shot and killed three teens and wounded a fourth at a party in Mukilteo with an AR-15 assault-style rifle that he had recently purchased.
The shooting affected the whole Mukilteo community, Battle said.
“Gun violence traumatized our community, but in the end we were able to come out a stronger community,” he said. “But we also realized that that shouldn’t have had to be our reality… It was preventable.”