Even though the remnants of a powerful nor’easter forced most Maine schools to close on Wednesday, hundreds of Maine students held walkouts at open schools and some demonstrations continued even though it was a snow day.

“If we do nothing, more students will die,” said Greta Holmes, one of about two dozen King Middle School students in Portland who gathered in Monument Square because their school was closed.

The protests – nearly 3,000 nationwide – were held one month after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 14 students and three staff members dead. Since then, surviving students from Florida have pressed for changes to gun laws, inspiring demonstrations on school campuses around the country.

At Yarmouth and York high schools, which were open, hundreds of students staged walkouts and rallied on school grounds. In Freeport, roughly 50 students holding signs commemorating the victims and calling for action gathered on Main Street even though schools were closed. Some Maine college students also participated in the national walk out, including students at St. Joseph’s College in Standish and Colby College in Waterville.

At the Yarmouth High School rally, senior Sage Watterson said every student in America “goes to school with a bundle of fear tucked into their backpack,” The Associated Press reported.

People, she said, should not invoke the nation’s founding fathers “to mop up the blood on library carpets and cafeteria floors.”


In Portland, several King students urged lawmakers to take action.

“You can’t tell yourself you can’t change anything when everyone knows you can,” said Hannah Smart, a seventh-grader at King, addressing her speech to lawmakers. “Every day you make excuses. Your apology won’t cut it. Actions speak louder than words.”

The students lined up along Congress Street, holding up signs reading “Will your school be next?” “Better background checks.” “Gun reform now” and “Is it your opinion or the NRA’s?” as motorists honked, waved or hollered their support.

Students say they have been inspired by the surviving students’ ongoing advocacy.

“We’re trying to honor the people who died and try to make politicians change gun laws,” said Holmes, 13, adding that she supports raising the age for firearm purchases from 18 to 21.

The seventh-grader was one of the organizers of the #Enough event planned at King Middle School that is now scheduled for Thursday. She and four other students plan to lead a walkout at the school, circle the building, then go inside for speakers and a writing exercise where students can share their different points of view, she said.


Josie Colton, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at King, was glad the students held the downtown protest Wednesday because it was more spontaneous than a school-led event.

“This is great,” said Colton, who was holding up a paper plate with the words “This is BS.” “We should feel safe in schools where we go to learn.”

Referring to the nation’s response to the Florida shootings and the student calls for change, she said, “People are being heard, but nothing is being done about it. They’re being brushed off. It makes me very angry.”

Another student, Anneke Van Mierlo, was holding up a “Will your school be next?” sign.

“Nobody wants gun violence,” said Van Mierlo, an 11-year-old who attends Reiche Elementary School. “These are your kids out there, and they should live their lives longer than my age.”

With Van Mierlo were her twin 14-year-old brothers, Matheo, a freshman at Casco Bay High School, and Mikeal, a freshman at Portland High School.


“People are starting to find out more (about gun violence) and figure out what to do,” said Matheo.

“These issues are real,” Mikeal said, “and people need to act on them.”

While some of the students lined Congress Street, a half-dozen others climbed to the top of a 6-foot snowpile to hold up their signs. About a dozen adults were there to support them, including Mayor Ethan Strimling and Portland High School Principal Sheila Jepson. Several administrators from Portland High School held up signs that read “PHS supports #notonemore” and “PHS supports 17 minutes for 17 lives.”

About 40 schools from Berwick to Machias planned to participate in the nationwide #Enough National School Walkout to End Gun Violence, organized by a student-led branch of the Women’s March. With most of the Maine schools closed Wednesday, many of the events have been rescheduled for Thursday or Friday.

Yarmouth High School senior Eliza Brown urged her fellow students to vote.

“This is the future,” Brown said. “We’re going to be voting these people in and out of office.”


In Freeport, the 50 middle and high school students lined Main Street in front of Town Hall holding signs and chanting “Enough is enough.” Across the street, parents and school staff lined up and replied with cheers and words of encouragement chanting, “We hear you.”

Regional School Unit 5 board member Maddy Vertenten stood across the street from the students with her husband, Joe, holding a sign that read, “Listen 2 them.” Their 14-year-old daughter, Ella Vertenten, held up a sign across the street that simply said, “Enough.”

“I don’t want to go to school worried for my safety because politicians value the right of a gun over my right to live,” said 14-year-old Marcello Santomenna.

Forecaster Staff Writer Jocelyn Van Saun contributed to this report.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:


Twitter: noelinmaine

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