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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cocke County High "Walk-In"
The bleachers were full Wednesday in the Cocke County High School gymnasium as students left class for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost at a Parkland, Florida high school a month earlier. The local event was part of the National School Walkout. Matthew Barnes a Senior said students wanted to be a part of the nationwide effort to honor the shooting victims. They had plans to walk out of class but "we reached a compromise to meet in the gym, out of the cold and where we could be predator protected," Barnes told the NewsSource. And so the majority of students at the school participated in a "walk-in". Another senior, Amanda Gillespie created a sign featuring the names of the shooting victims. “With eight of them spelling OUR VOICE in the colors of the Florida school. And WE WILL BE HEARD in our Cocke County colors as a unity message. Pointing out that their voices will be heard along with our voices." And Gillespie says there was another message to the walk-in. "It's also a way for us to voice that we do want a change in gun rights. Not to get rid of them, but to make it harder for people who would do this kind of thing, to be able to get ahold of those guns." Abby Verleeck, a sophomore, said she has lived her life in fear of everything, her Muslim neighbors, her Caucasian colleagues, and every single person she meets. "I grew up with so much tragedy, that it became normal for people to die. I was taught to be cautious around any stranger or friend I meet, and I am tired." She pointed out that 67 people have died in mass shootings in the US this year. "That's not OK, and if you think it is OK, I'm here to inform you that you are morally wrong. Children like myself deserve to live in a country where we don't have to worry. I'm tired of being ignored. Today we are here to honor the lives of all those who died in mass shootings." Alec Phillips said he has grown to fear going to any mass gathering because these places have become targets of mass shooters. And he called for action following the Florida shooting. "Before this event I viewed school as a place of safety but that has forever changed. I beg for action to be taken to prevent more of these terrible events. I beg for laws and policies to protect us. Phillips argued that today's students are the future of this nation, county and school. " I beg for differences to be put aside so change can be made, so no family has to receive the news that their child was murdered at school. I'm tired of being afraid of going to school, let our voices echo as one. A voice saying we are done with being scared." But Zion Ward who is 17 held up a sign that read, "You missed the Point", and on the back listed the 17 victims of the Florida shooting. "Too many people in our school are making this about gun regulation when it should be about honoring the victims. That was the whole purpose at first but now they are using it as an outlet to express their political views when it should be to honor the victims." Asked if he is opposed to gun control, Ward said, "I'm opposed to excessive gun control. There obviously are some things that should be done because we've seen this far too many times in our current political climate and in our whole world."

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