In wake of the tragedies faced at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD), Broward County has begun to speak out.
Across the county, it was decided this past weekend that several walkouts would be held in order to mourn the many lost at one Broward County’s sister schools. For Cooper City High School, official plans to stage a walkout began on Monday, March 20, with the walkout itself occurring on Wednesday, March 22. Senior Sabrine Brismeur met with Principal Wendy Doll on Monday morning in order to plan and organize the timeline, speeches and events of the walkout. An estimated 2300 students were present during the walkout’s peak in the stands, according to Principal Wendy Doll.
At roughly 11:39 a.m. on Wednesday afternoon, Principal Doll cautioned students to be mindful and wary over the intercom, telling teachers to neither encourage nor prevent students from leaving the classroom. She suggested that students use the walkout as a means of protest, but not to act irrationally or violently. In order to promote the safety of all students and avoid a conflict with lunch times, the walkout was staged closer to 11:45 than to 12:00, allowing all students to enter and exit the bleachers with ample time.
Principal Doll and several other faculty members, as well as multiple Broward Sheriff’s Office police officers, were present throughout the entire event to ensure the safety of the students during the congregation.
In the bleachers, students stood with signs that had various slogans protesting gun violence, ranging from phrases such as “Never again,” “Do we love our guns more than our kids?” and “Justice for Douglas,” some even pleading with Marco Rubio. Students were led in chants by junior Natalia Aguirre and other members of our National Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC).
“Even though NJROTC is a huge part of my life, as soon as I entered through the gates of the stadium I was no longer standing as the Executive Officer of the Cowboy Battalion,” Aguirre said. “That title was irrelevant. I stood and protested as a student who felt the tragedy of Stoneman Douglas very deeply…change, as history has consistently shown us, is achieved through persistence and even audacity.”
“Stop this,” said the leaders of the chants. In response, the crowd would shout back the phrase “No guns.”
Several speakers were able to speak to the crowd, beginning with a commencement address from Brismeur. Some of the other speakers present were junior Isaac Chiu, senior Zachary Perrotta, sophomore Abbie Tuschman and sophomore Grant Golin. The first speaker to take the stage after Brismeur was Chiu, who called for a plan to stop gun violence.
“They refuse to listen to our pleas of basic survival,” Chiu said. “Let this day be the beginning of a new era where our voices will no longer be silenced.”
Students proceeded to cheer and chant with him as the next speaker Zachary Perrotta took the stage. Perrotta took a different stance on the matter, openly revealing to his former affiliation with the Republican party and his disappointment with senior Florida senator Marco Rubio.
“As of today, I’m changing my party affiliation to independent and will not vote for [Rubio] if he continues to sit in silence as children suffer,” Perrotta said. He went on to state that the students of CCHS are growing up, and that they now have the power to vote for the changes they wished to see in their nation.
At one point, a helicopter from a WPLG Local 10 News (12:21 minutes into the video) hovered over the football field, live streaming it to their Facebook.
More student speakers would take to the podium until the walkout came to a close at 12:22, with a silent walk around the track in remembrance of the lives lost.
Despite the fact that Principal Doll wished for students to remain on campus, some students decided to jump over the fence which blocks the bleachers from the baseball field and the greater school. These students took to Stirling Road, stating that it was a greater form of protest than remaining on school grounds. Most returned back to school grounds by the end of the walkout.
CCHS joined dozens of other public high school walkouts across Miami-Dade and Broward County, as students look to put the pressure on politicians in the wake of the MSD tragedy.
Photo by Casey Chapter