Student rally in Bellingham started with an Instagram post

Nationwide protests have been set for March 14, March 24 and April 20.

  • Robert Mittendorf The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.)
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018 2:34pm
  • Northwest

By Robert Mittendorf / The Bellingham Herald

BELLINGHAM — A demonstration among students Wednesday at Bellingham schools began with an Instagram message about gun violence two days after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school.

“I just posted asking, ‘Hey, I’m having a walkout at school. Who’s interested?’ ” said Maggie Davis-Bower, a Squalicum High junior and herself a witness to gun violence.

In September 2016, Davis-Bower and her mother hid behind a counter the Macy’s in Burlington a gunman walked past, firing shots that killed five people in the Cascade Mall. She and others who organized the rally said the violence has to stop.

Students left classes at 11:22 a.m., the time the first shots rang out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Miami suburb of Parkland. They walked, car-pooled or drove to City Hall for the rally.

Just a day after Davis-Bower’s Instagram query, students from all four Bellingham high schools began meeting to discuss strategies for the Wednesday rally — part of a surging movement in the face of a horrific toll of American mass killings. Already, nationwide protests have been set for March 14, March 24 and April 20, which marks 19 years since the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado that sparked the modern surge of mass school shootings.

“Every revolution started like this,” said Noah Lovell, a Squalicum junior as he helped make protest signs with about two dozen of his peers Tuesday at a student’s home. “The most effective weapons and tools to use is the grass roots. Our goal is just to get our schools’ attention.”

On Tuesday, student organizers discussed the walkout with school officials and got permits from the city — then notified police, local media and Seattle TV.

“This is getting a lot bigger,” said Sehome High sophomore Thomas Cassella. “Where’s this going to go? We’ve already seen a huge response.”

Both Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville and schools Superintendent Greg Baker lent their support.

“We are proud of the students who are organizing this event and collaborating with their peers across the district to take action in something they believe in,” Baker said in a statement Tuesday. “We support students’ rights to have a voice in our democracy. Peaceful protest and advocacy can be part of a powerful learning experience.”

District spokeswoman Jackie Brawley said students who participate won’t be disciplined, but will be responsible for having their absences excused. Middle-schoolers were planning a similar walkout in support of the high schools, she said, but students wouldn’t be allowed to leave campus without parental consent.

Lovell and other organizers said the Bellingham students have three immediate goals:

• For government to make it harder for some people to buy guns.

• For people to understand that more guns aren’t the answer to gun violence.

• For schools to address growing violence with concrete measures, such as metal detectors and self-defense education.

And they want more communication from school administrators and city leaders.

Students said the only training they get is regular lockdown drills that they ridiculed as ineffective. They were surprised — and comforted — to learn Tuesday that Bellingham Police and firefighters regularly train for “active shooter” situations in schools.

“We have to know what to do if we’re in danger,” Cassella said.

Squalicum junior Sheyla Turudija, who is considering a career in law enforcement, said she wants to see more public outreach from the school and police.

“All we’re told to do is get under our desks and hope for the best,” Turudija said.

“I feel there is a revolution in the making,” said Catherine Pouber, a Squalicum junior.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

The Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

This impacts how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Washington state license plates prices increase July 1

The price of a new plate will rise from $10 to $50, and replacing a lost plate will increase from $10 to $30.

Hundreds gather to listen to a lineup of guest speakers during Snohomish County’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally Saturday, May 14, 2022, outside the county courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

The decision is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
Jury awards $595,000 to Lummi tribe for salmon pen collapse

The tribe sued, saying the pen owner had not reimbursed the tribal government for its clean up effort.

FILE - Alaska Airlines planes are parked at gates with Mount Rainier in the background at sunrise, on March 1, 2021, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A union has reached a deal Wednesday, June 22, 2022, with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines for a two-year contract extension that provides substantial raises for 5,300 gate agents, stores personnel and office staff, as well as for ramp workers who load cargo. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines reaches contract deal with some workers

Raises for gate agents, stores personnel, office staff, as well as ramp workers who load cargo.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle facing $117 million revenue shortfall in 2023

The city’s budget chief says there’s no easy way to bridge the gap.

A view from the lower undeveloped part of the Flowery Trail neighborhood looking at spots where slash piles have been burned - outside Chewelah, Wash. (Erick Doxey / InvestigateWest)
Growing sprawl in state’s woods comes with high wildfire risk

Policymakers and homeowners are scrambling to manage the so-called “wildland-urban interface” to mitigate the threat.

The kids thought it was milk. It was actually floor sealant

In Juneau, containers of the chemical were stacked on the same pallet as boxes containing pouches of milk.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Initiative to change Seattle elections heads toward ballot

The initiative would alter the way Seattle elects mayors, city attorneys and City Council members.

Lynnwood climber supports first all-Black Mount Everest summit bid

Fred Campbell was part of the historic expedition, but got sick and had to turn back before the submit.

The A.J. Eisenberg Airport in Oak Harbor. (Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times)
Local pilot plans to buy Whidbey Island airport

Robert DeLaurentis, known as the “Zen Pilot,” submitted a letter of intent to purchase the A.J. Eisenberg Airport.