Hundreds of students at Smith High School in Greensboro walked off campus at 10 a.m., converging at a soccer field in a defiant but orderly protest, as part of national school walkout to call for action on gun violence.
The Smith High School students were part of a larger wave of walkouts at Guilford County Schools and throughout the region. Students were also expected to walk out at Grimsley High School and Page High School in Greensboro today, and district spokesperson Nora Shoptaw said administrators believed 10 schools would participate, although they hadn’t confirmed.
“We need more therapists and more counselors,” said Jhonathan Hill, a Smith High School senior who organized the walkout with three other students. “We need better trained [school resource officers]. We need to have more mediation tactics and more conversations with students.”Hill who wore a shirt quoting slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton that read, “I am a revolutionary.”
Hill estimated that half of the 1,250 students at Smith High School participated in the action. School Librarian Jessica Thomas estimated the number might be a third to half.
As students poured onto Veasley Street, a quiet lane that separates the soccer field from campus, supporters from Cakalak Thunder struck up a drum line. Students from Bennett College and GTCC, along with activists from the Black Lives Matter Gate City Chapter and the International Socialist Organization, joined the protest in support of the high school students. Members of Cakalak Thunder broke into a chant of, “Black lives matter.”
Nearby, Hill and other students passed around a bullhorn during a speakout. Students held signs reading, “Protect people, not guns,” “One child is worth more than all the guns on earth,” and “Fear has no place in our schools.” Students chanted, “We coming, we ready,” and, “This is what democracy looks like.”
About 45 minutes after the walkout commenced, Hill and other organizers signaled for the students to return to class. A small number of students took advantage of the event for other purposes. As the vast majority of students were returning to campus, a police officer confronted a handful of students in front of the Four Seasons Grande Theatre a short distance away and ordered them to return to class.
Hill emphasized the importance of the Smith High School students claiming power, including maintaining the walkout longer than the 17 minutes, meant to represent the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month and an expected duration for the nationwide walkouts.
“There were concerns over safety,” Hill said. “We did it. We came to the soccer field. We stayed out longer than 17 minutes. Everyone was safe.”