Aspen students march to protest gun violence
A host of Aspen teenagers and community members — several doting umbrellas and sporting ski pants — braved the elements Friday morning to join thousands of students nationwide in a march and protest against gun violence.
The most recent wave of national walkouts hit extra close to home for students in Colorado, as Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High shooting in Littleton.
As Aspen students endured a snowy, slushy 2-mile trek from the high school to Paepcke Park, made passionate pleas for safer gun reform, read poems from survivors of the Parkland shooting and urged their peers to vote, another student was shot at school in Florida.
“When will it be enough?” Aspen senior Emily Driscoll posed before the crowd at Paepcke. “How many kids have to die before the government steps in?”
Driscoll, who co-organized the march alongside junior Zoe Cramer, said, “Too many administrators endured unfathomable horrors. Too many communities suffered unbearable loss. Too many innocent lives were taken that could have been spared.”
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She continued, “We deserve not to live in fear. We deserve to feel safe in a school environment. We deserve protection from our government, and we will be silent no more.”
According to National School Walkout — a grassroots, student-led movement — 33 schools in Colorado registered walkouts Friday and 2,700 across the U.S.
Before a lively, engaged crowd of a few hundred students and adults, Aspen sophomore Tullis Burrows declared: “We are not here today because it’s trendy. We are here today because if we do not march today, what happened in Columbine, what happened in Las Vegas, what happened in Florida and what happened in Newtown is going to keep happening.”
Burrows called out Congressman Scott Tipton, who represents Colorado’s 3rd district, which includes Aspen and Pitkin County, and other elected officials who have received campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.
“It’s not a surprise to anyone that he has shot down major gun legislation in both the House and during his time as Colorado state senator,” said Burrows, who concluded with a message for Tipton and “the rest of the corrupt politicians [who] plague our democracy.”
“We know who you are, we know what you’ve done and we’re coming for you. Thank you.”
Student speakers on several occasions urged their peers 18 and older to register to vote, which people were able to do at Paepcke Park on Friday.
Petitions and information on how to contact state legislators also were passed around the park.
Intermixed among the student speeches, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling spoke and applauded the activism of the generation that stood before them.
“You cannot lose the momentum that the children in Parkland started,” DiSalvo said. “The time is right. You have the power, take it back.”
Sophomore Lucas Webb in his speech disputed the notion that young people can ignite change and pointed to Joan of Arc and Anne Frank as examples.
In her closing remarks, march co-organizer Cramer reminisced on a time when school drills were nothing more than a hypothetical thrill.
“Remember when code reds were exciting when we were younger? It was like a game of hide-and-seek,” the high school junior said. “But as we’ve gotten older and witnessed the disturbing side America has to offer, we know very well that this game of hide-and-seek is no longer an exciting disturbance in class, but a matter of life or death.”
“This is not a game. This is reality,” Cramer said. “Enough is enough.”
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Aspen Glen residents and other speakers at a public hearing lobbied the Garfield County commissioners to keep a protective buffer in place on about 25 acres of the golf club to protect wildlife. No decision was reached.