KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — “Put the guns down and help us out” that’s one of the chants a group of Austin-East students were heard shouting Thursday afternoon during a protest outside of the school.
A small group of students gathered to protest the recent gun violence in the community that has taken the lives of three of their classmates in the past month. They held signs and chanted things like “We want to graduate” and “Protect our students.”
They say they want the community to know how these tragedies have impacted them. Shiasia Calhoun is a sophomore and organized the protest with the school’s permission.
“We have to come together as a community and shed awareness to our classmates who are literally not there anymore,” Calhoun said.
She says she felt it was her duty to speak up since she’s still here and three of her classmates are not.
“Hopefully we can solve whoever killed Stanley or Nana or Justin and it never happens again because it could have been me or someone I love and the fact that I’m still here to this day means it’s up to me to get this message out,” Calhoun said.
Sophomore, Nichole Carmona, says she participated in the protest because she fears for her safety when she leaves school.
“This school was supposed to be my place of protection. My escape from home, my escape from real life, school, me being happy to come here every single day, now I’m terrified. Knowing if I’m going to walk home safe or if I’m going to make it to the bus okay,” Carmona said.
Around 15 to 20 students protested for about an hour after school. It began and ended peacefully.