Thursday, March 8, 2018

Students Seek Peace at Protest

Olivia Coulter

Brenna Sawney

Students at Sallisaw High School are planning a Protest for Peace from 7:30 to 8 a.m. on March 16.

The gathering will be in front of Sallisaw High School, and the organizers invite everyone to attend.

The Protest for Peace is in response to the shooting on Feb. 14 of 17 students and adults at a Florida high school.

Two of the protest organizers recently explained the need for the gathering.

Olivia Coulter, 18, is a senior, and Brenna Sawney, 17, is a junior at Sallisaw High School. They are just two of the students planning a response to the shooting, which includes the gathering on March 16 and a march on the state capitol in Oklahoma City on March 24. The march is being held in connection with a nation-wide response by students to the shooting, and their march in Washington, D.C.

“What we want,” said Coulter, “is common sense gun control.”

The two students said they don’t want to ban guns. They want better gun control, such as more stringent background checks and mental health checks of those buying guns.

Sawney said, “Due to the tragedy in Parkland, Fla., the students have something to say. It’s not about being Republican or Democrat. It’s not about being on the left or on the right. It’s about being safe in school.”

Sawney continued, “I feel safe in school (in Sallisaw). Our administration is awesome. They are supportive of us using our voices. But this could happen anywhere.

“We want to do something on the local level,” Sawney said.

Coulter added, “Students are looking for reform on a legislative level. We also wanted to pay our respects, and inform the public about the march.”

On March 16, the two young women said 17 students will be asked to stand aside to represent those whose lives were lost.

Sawney said, “We want the public to know what impact that shooting would have had in Sallisaw. We want the public to know what 17 victims look like to us.”

Those planning to attend will be asked to wear orange, which is appropriate for Sallisaw Schools since school colors are orange and black. According to the internet, orange was chosen by other youngsters when friends were killed as the color to protest gun violence. They say orange is a bright, bold color that demands to be seen. Orange expresses a hope for a future free from gun violence.

Coulter will offer a welcome to those attending, and James Limbaugh may speak. Limbaugh, a Sallisaw senior, is helping organize the march on the state capitol.

Sawney said she may also speak, and provide an inspiring message and information to attendees.

The two young women also hope to work with the Sequoyah County Election Board and have a voter registration booth available. They explained that 18-year-olds may vote, and should be encouraged to do so. They also hope that younger students may register so they may vote in the future.

Scott Farmer, Sallisaw School superintendent, said he was proud of his students.

“Our students sent a letter about what they want to do. They are professional and articulate. They are doing this with dignity and are passionate about a cause important to them. Our school district has done them well.”

State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) and State Senator Mark Allen (R-Spiro) were invited to attend but both have declined.

Asked to comment by The Mix 105.1, Bennett sent the following: “The recent school shooting in Florida is an absolute tragedy. My prayers go out to the family, friends and neighbors of those who lost their lives in the Florida school shooting. This is an absolute tragedy that I pray never happens again, in any school.

“I believe we have a pressing and urgent need to secure our schools immediately. I do not believe gun control is the answer. Passing more laws in the hopes of stopping what other laws failed to stop is only a false sense of security. There were numerous laws in place, if enforced appropriately, that could have prevented the incident in Florida, but it did not.

“I fully support school resource officers or armed security guards, I support bullet proof glass, door stops, authorization to allow teachers to be armed (as long as the local school boards control who is authorized and they coordinate with local law enforcement on a plan). I also support the use of cameras in schools, and/or anything that will harden our schools and make them safer for our kids. The question will likely be how we fund these additional costs.

“There are more than a million unborn children killed by Planned Parenthood each year. Planned Parenthood receives a half billion dollars in tax money each year to kill unborn babies. I would suggest we take the tax money they receive to kill the unborn and divert it to the schools to pay for security.

“I do not agree that gun control is the answer, but I respect and support the right of the local students to peacefully protest for what they believe in. I am a strong advocate for the 2nd Amendment, but I am equally supportive of these students’ 1st Amendment rights to peacefully assemble according to the U.S. Constitution. Gun control will never stop evil that people have in their hearts. They will always find a way to commit evil acts, whether they use a gun, knife, fertilizer, or a plane. What we can and should do immediately is harden our schools to protect our kids.

“Finally, I would suggest we focus on replacing the evil in people’s hearts, with Jesus. Put Jesus back in school and our society and we will see a change.”

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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