A group of Orange County high school students gathered at Bill Barber Memorial Park on April 20 to rally for gun control measures on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.
The student-led group, SOC4CHANGE, formed after the nationwide March for Our Lives last month. Students from neighboring Orange County schools found and contacted each other through Instagram and began a direct message chain to organize the walk-out in April. The group chat would eventually grow into a 20-person collaboration across school districts.
Jack Hartstein, a senior from San Juan High School and one of the many student organizers, said, “We just started contacting any Instagram account with posts about the March and began direct messaging each other … eventually we began meeting at Starbucks to organize the event.”
“Ever since the Parkland shooting, we’ve seen youth rise up and if these problems are not going to be fixed by those in government then we have to try,” Hartstein continued. “Locally, we hope Mimi Walters gets the message.”
The rally, which began around 11 a.m., included guest speakers, musical performances and various booths representing candidates running for the 45th congressional district. Speakers included Winter Minisee, a youth organizer for the Women’s March Youth organization; Farrah Khan, a candidate running for Irvine City Council; Charles Bleck, the president of the OC Chapter of the Brady Campaign; and Jim Gardner, the current mayor of Lake Forest.
Following the first slate of speakers, students, parents and other supporters marched from the park to the Irvine Civic Center chanting for further gun control.
Kianna Hedmana, a junior from Dana Hills High School, participated in the march with her mother, Renee Carillo, holding cardboard signs and chanting with students.
“I think it’s really important to support our children … that’s ultimately our job as parents, and I also have that fear one of my three children might not coming back from school one day, and I think that’s crazy,” Carillo said. “My son, who’s in first grade, came home one day and told me he had to practice a drill for an active shooter.”
“Our voice is a gift and I hope that this rally will bring better change and regulation,” Hedmana said.
Cassidy Popp and Gianna Bruce, also juniors from Dana Hills High School, felt that students in the walk-out had reasonable demands.
“There are studies done with other countries that have more restrictive gun laws and it shows that it works and there’s less violence,” Popp, who had recently done a research paper on the topic, said.
After marching back to the park, the event concluded with another slate of speakers, which included student organizers and student testimonies.