Nearly 2,000 Greater Nashua students protest gun violence in schools via walkout

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Hundreds of students at Nashua High School North participate in a 17-minute walkout and protest on Wednesday to stand in solidarity with the 17 people who lost their lives in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month.

NASHUA – “Just because they don’t want to listen to us, doesn’t mean we can’t make them hear us,” Victoria Sanchez shouted into her megaphone Monday morning.

“Change will not be made until we insist our voices are heard.”

A cheer went up from the crowd of more than 300 students gathered outside Nashua High School North.

A chant began, “enough is enough,” they cried, waving their signs.

“Our politicians aren’t the ones going to school every day, fearing for their lives,” Sanchez told the crowd. “We shouldn’t be the ones who have to make the change, but here we are.”

The students standing in the cold in Nashua, were a handful of the thousands across the country who joined a National School Walkout to protest an increase in gun violence in American schools. Many also advocated for stricter gun laws.

The event took place exactly one month after 17 people, mostly students, were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In the protest Monday morning, which lasted from 10 to 10:17 a.m., Sanchez read the names and ages of each of the victims before asking for a moment of silence.

Signs, some elaborate, others simple, said the students were fed up with the current state of affairs.

“It could have been here,” one sign read. “Me Next?” another asked. One claimed that young women’s clothing choices are more strictly policed in schools than guns are. Another simply read, “You can’t fight firearms with firearms.”

“Teenagers’ opinions should be valued,” Sanchez said after the protest. “What we have to say is important.”

She implored her fellow students to contact local and state representatives to advocate for a change.

Across the bridge at Nashua High School South, hundreds more students also gathered to speak, memorialize and act.

“People were ready to support the cause,” Hannah Hansen, one of the organizers said. “It was really touching to look at.”

“This shooting was just different,” another organizer, Lyssa Brogan said. The students in Parkland, who quickly became the advocates for their own cause, were the ones who started it, she said. “They lit the fire.”

The Parkland students also organized a march on Washington March 24, the “March for Our Lives.”

In the 19 years since Columbine, the 11 since Virginia Tech, and the five since Sandy Hook, government officials and people across the country have only offered “thoughts and prayers,” Hansen said, and they want more than that.

The two seniors both said their parents had been supportive of their organizing efforts. Hansen said her family felt strongly that they didn’t want to feel the pain of the parents who had lost their children to school violence.

Not all parents were supportive of the protests, and not all students were either.

In Merrimack, more than 850 students chose to walk out in protest. Others stayed in their classrooms.

A smaller group of seven to 10 students chose to host a counter protest and gathered around the flag to support their Second Amendment rights, said Kenneth Johnson, Merrimack High School’s principal. One young man in that group chose to salute the flag for the entire 17 minutes.

“Each student who wanted the opportunity to express themselves was able to do so,” Johnson said. “Everyone was extremely respectful of everyone’s opinions.”

“Please understand that, as a public school, this is not about promoting one political agenda over another. These days, there is an escalating importance when it comes to listening to student voices – listening to what they have to say,” he said in a memo to parents.

For those who chose to walk out in protest of gun violence in schools, he said the organizing students were “brilliant and exceptionally well spoken.”

Each of the victims’ names were read with a brief biography, followed by a moment of silence. Johnson called the experience “incredibly powerful.” The event was closed to the public.

At Hollis Brookline High School, their “walkout,” in which nearly 400 students gathered in the auditorium, the event was also private.

“They want to express their solidarity with their fellow students across the nation regarding this important issue of their time – school safety,” Rick Barnes, HBHS’s principal said in a statement to parents.

The desire was to have the event be for students, by students.

“We see this as an opportunity for students to participate in active civic engagement as led by their peers,” he said, adding that he was very proud of the students. “They are exemplars on how a community can come together and put passion and convictions to work in an effective but appropriate manner in the desire to bring about change.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or