Several walkout participants carried handmade signs calling for gun control and protections for abortion rights. John Terhune / The Times Record

“Protect kids not guns.”

“End gun violence.”

“Am I next?”

Over 100 Brunswick Junior High students, many waving handmade signs, turned the school’s courtyard into a protest site Tuesday during a student-led walkout to protest gun violence. The event, part of a national walkout organized by advocacy group Students Demand Action, followed similar protests in Cape Elizabeth and South Portland last week.

Lily Leeman, an 8th grader, said she was motivated after a mass shooting at an Uvalde, Texas elementary school that left 19 children dead.

“It hit everyone in the country and the community really hard,” Leeman said.


The noon walkout, held with the school administration’s blessing, gave Brunswick students an opportunity to join a local and national push for legislation to reduce the risk of mass shootings.

Leeman and fellow 8th grader Zelda Anesko both received applause from their classmates after giving short speeches about the need for gun control.

State Sen. Mattie Daughtry encouraged the crowd to keep pushing for change.

Brunswick Junior High School Students gathered outside the building at noon to protest gun violence. John Terhune / The Times Record

“I was your age when the Columbine shooting happened,” she said. “Our leaders said they would fight for us. It’s a little frustrating that the fight is still going on.”

Before the walkout, Brunswick Superintendent Phil Potenziano highlighted other past school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Newtown, Connecticut, as evidence of the need for change. While the problem isn’t new, he said he’s seen a fresh determination to confront gun violence.

“To me, it feels like it’s a tipping point,” Potenziano said. “It feels as though it’s a catalyst for change in students and parents.”


Not everyone in the community supported the walkout, which came weeks after Brunswick High School Students held a similar event to protest the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

Brogan Teel, Brunswick parent and Republican candidate for a seat in Maine State Senate District 23, claimed the event was political and organized by a partisan, progressive group.

“One of my top priorities is to fix the messes caused by lockdowns implemented by progressive leadership,” Brogan Teel said in a press release. “This does not look good for Brunswick — let’s get back to parents, administrators, and students working together to improve educational outcomes. Let’s leave the professional political groups out of it, and realize that our number one priority should be the fact that our kids are being left behind right now.”

Yet according to members of the school’s administration, which helped Leeman organize the event, giving students a chance to protest peacefully is an important part of educating them.

“Supporting students so that they have a voice and they understand that their voice means something in a democratic society is really important,” Potenziano said. “It tells me that we’re doing a good job as educators that our students feel safe and secure to be able to go out and speak their feelings and speak their minds.”

Leeman, who hopes Congress will pass stricter gun control measures so kids feel safer in schools, said she enjoyed the challenge of speaking in front of her classmates.

“I was really nervous,” she said. “But as I went on, it started to feel sort of powerful.”

8th grader Lily Leeman stands in front of the over 100 students who attended the walkout she organized Tuesday. John Terhune / The Times Record

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