Local students organize Walkout protest


Kailyn Erb stands next to a section of the planned march route on Broadway Street. Photo credit: Lizzie Helmer

After 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, student survivors called for a national walkout and protest to happen. Two local students are taking action to ensure students in Chico are standing in solidarity.

Chico State sophomore Kailyn Erb and Inspire School of Arts and Sciences junior Evan Aanenson have been collaborating for the last few weeks to put on a march and protest that is open to students of all grades and community members.

This “Walkout” protest and march is part of a national event happening Wednesday at 10 a.m. in response to the Parkland school shooting.

“I created the event on Facebook and I did it because I wasn’t seeing any of our student leadership taking charge of it,” Erb said. Her Facebook event titled Chico State Walkout already has over 370 responses.

Kailyn Erb, sophomore theater arts major, is organizing the Chico State Walkout protest and march. Photo credit: Lizzie Helmer

Aanenson also created a private Facebook event exclusively for high schoolers called Chico Area High School Walkout. He reached out to Erb and the two have since combined their efforts to create a unified protest.

“We’re not taken seriously,” Aanenson said on organizing a protest as a minor. “That’s why we have college students involved because it’s their campus too and they’re legal adults and so they can stand with us.”

Inspire School of Arts and Science junior Evan Aanenson is helping organize the high school side of the Chico Walkout protest and march. Photo credit: Lizzie Helmer

“This is an issue that is bigger than just college campuses,” Erb said. “No one should be afraid to go to school and get an education, it should be a basic human right and people who come onto campus with the intent of hurting others are infringing on that right.”

Erb and Aanenson, with the help of Chico Peace and Justice Center and Chico Women’s March, have organized a march for both college and high school students. Some high school students from Inspire School of the Arts plan on walking out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and will march to Chico City Plaza, where Chico State student participants will join them.

March route for Inspire School of Arts and Sciences students

Erb and Aanenson will address the crowd followed by a Q&A panel from councilwoman Ann Schwab, state assembly candidate Sonia Aery and Butte County supervisor candidate Debra Lucero.

Erb said she has contacted alumni and representatives from Chico State student housing to speak at the event as well.

Erb stressed that the event is five hours long and is welcome for supporters to come and go.

“If you don’t want to miss class, we understand,” she said. “It’s an all day event, if you have 10 minutes to go downtown and show your support, that is enough.”

Kailyn Erb points to march route along Broadway. Photo credit: Lizzie Helmer

According to Erb and Aanenson, the goal of the march is to create public pressure to pass gun control legislation. “What we’re calling for is the end to the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons as well as accessories that enable automatic or semi-automatic capabilities to civilians,” Erb said.

While Wednesday’s walkout is a national event that many high school students around the country are participating in, the Chico Unified School District cannot endorse a walkout.

Instead, administrators like Chico Unified School District superintendent Kelly Staley are encouraging civic engagement to happen on-campus.

“(A protest) has to be on the school site campus and they cannot leave school,” Staley said. “These are minors that we’re talking about and they are under direct supervision of the school site and school staff.”

Staley said if students do not plan on being in class their parents need to have them signed out or it will be considered a truancy.

“We definitely support our students being engaged, I think this is an outstanding learning opportunity (for) civic engagement,” Staley said. “Our concern is that anything we do is organized and safe.”

However, Aanenson believes participating in the protest is worth the risk.

“This is such an important issue that a small consequence like detention or Saturday school isn’t too bad,” he said. “We are standing with the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to say that enough is enough. Too many people have lost their lives.”

Lizzie Helmer can be reached at [email protected] or @lizziehelmer on Twitter.