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‘We knew in our hearts we had to do it:’ Behind the scenes of one Philly school’s walkout

freire students walkout
Kimberly Paynter (WHYY News)

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Dymonique Hammond had something to say, but she wasn’t quite sure how to say it.

On Wednesday morning, as thousands of high school students across the country walked out of school to protest gun violence, Hammond and the rest of her classmates at Freire Charter High School in Center City Philadelphia gathered in Rittenhouse Square as part of a school-sanctioned rally. The plan was to observe a moment of silence and then have students chalk the sidewalks with names of friends and loved ones lost to gun violence.

Hammond had other ideas.

Midway through the activity, she climbed onto the lip of a fountain, grabbed a bullhorn, and turned to address the roughly 500 students and staff below.

One problem: The bullhorn wouldn’t cooperate.

For about three minutes, the high school junior and her friends fumbled with the device the way that a more experienced activist (of the middle-aged persuasion, perhaps) might stagger through Snapchat. What went where? Which button did what?

Finally, the bullhorn sprang to life, and the group made an announcement.

“If y’all are participating, we wanna have a march to 15th Street, so that way we can spread the word a bit more,” Hammond said.

It didn’t appear that most of the students heard her. Or if they did, they didn’t seem inspired.

She was proposing a small rebellion — an alternative march that would lead the students to City Hall and deviate from the script laid out by school leaders.

Read and listen to the rest of this story at WHYY News

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