On Tuesday, March 13, I read online that our local high school would be participating in the March 14 national student 17-minute walk-out in memory of the 17 students and staff members killed one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and as a protest against gun violence in this country.
So I signed up and RSVP'd that I would be at the demonstration the following day.
I wondered whether people would be carrying signs and banners as they generally have at previous gun violence protests and sit-ins at Congressional representatives' offices that I've attended in the past.
As I walked from the shopping center towards the school I expected I'd soon catch up with fellow demonstrators, but by the time I arrived at the high school,
Instead I did something in retrospect kind of dumb, definitely naïve and most assuredly tone-oblivious to the fact that this walk-out was not planned or necessarily condoned by the school administration, whose members' feelings about the walk-out might well range from the ambivalent to the antipathetic: I walked into the high school to ask where student the walk-out would be taking place.
I was met inside the front entrance by a tall, muscular, no-nonsense-looking police officer and an equally no-nonsense-looking man sitting at a desk next to the officer. I was asked what could be done for me, and when I, all smiley and good-natured and a little nervous, asked where the walk-out would take place, I was sent by the police officer to the principal's office.
Now, the police officer hadn't been especially unfriendly, just - to me - scary; nor was the principal unfriendly, either, in fact he was quite nice, and he told me that the walk-out would be from the school to the football stadium directly behind the school, but he did make it clear to me - in a nice way - that this was the students' event and it was the school's wish that outsiders not participate or be in the area. So I thanked the principal, the police officer, and the man behind the desk and I left the premises.
On my way back to the shopping center where my car and protest sign were parked I passed a group of high school kids who were walking from one of the school's annex buildings back to the main building, presumably to participate in the walk-out.
But I figured, well, I asked, and was asked to leave, so I'd leave.
I'm a peaceful demonstrator at heart, not a rabble-rouser.
By the time my sign and I arrived home it was a few minutes before ten, the designated time for the walk-out nationwide. I decided to walk around my neighborhood alone for 17 minutes, - without my sign - not because I thought taking a pleasant walk by myself would make any difference,