Evanston Township High School students hold die-in to draw attention to Evanston gun violence

Christopher Vazquez, Digital Managing Editor

Evanston Township High School students held a die-in Wednesday in an effort to draw attention to Evanston gun violence and memorialize ETHS graduates who have been fatally shot.

Event organizers handed out chalk and pieces of paper with names of Evanston gun violence victims to students entering the school, asking them to write out whatever name they chose on the cement in front of the school’s Dodge Avenue entrance. The names included Dajae Coleman, Yakez Semark, Kaylyn Pryor, Darryl Shannon Pickett and Star Paramore. Organizers then held a short rally before school started followed by eight minutes of silence during which students laid on the ground.

Liana Wallace, an ETHS senior and gunsense activist who helped organize the event, said she wanted to create a greater acknowledgement of gun violence in Evanston and especially how it has affected communities of color.

“We thought a die-in would be a good way to remember the lives lost in Evanson,” Wallace said. “The lives lost here matter and (they are) mostly black and brown folks that have died due to gun violence. And it’s not talked about and that needs to change.”

The protest came in response to a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Highlands Ranch, Colorado earlier this month. Organizers said they also felt the need to hold the event following a soft lockdown at ETHS two weeks ago, which took place as an Evanston Police Department officer heard shots fired near the intersection of Payne Street and Dewey Avenue. The officer entered a car chase with a silver Jeep whose occupants were involved in the incident.

Phoebe Liccardo, an ETHS senior and former student representative to the D202 school board, said she was taken aback by some other students’ reactions to the lockdown.

“We heard students in our classes complaining about having to stay for 15 minutes and not really recognizing the threat that gun violence is posing to students at ETHS,” Liccardo said. “We realized that asking students to sit for a soft lockdown was not something we wanted future generations to have to go through. We have a right to feel safe in our schools and right now, that’s not something that’s happening because of gun violence in our community.”

Organizers said the die-in was the first on-campus gunsense demonstration since a student walkout last March. That event came in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last February and was one of many student walkouts across the country.

After the event, organizers encouraged students to continuously push for legislation to address gun violence and signed up students for the Northshore Association of Student Activists, an organization that brings together activists from various high schools in the area.

Mollie Hartenstein, an ETHS senior who also helped organize the event, said she hopes students will carry a deeper understanding of Evanston gun violence following the die-in.

“I hope people realize how proximate gun violence is for them and realize that they live in this community, and it’s up to them to remember these people and to care about these people and to make change here,” she said, “and that we have the duty and the ability to do something about it.”

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