‘Mukilteo Strong’ on display at March for Our Lives

Mukilteo citizens walk in March for Our Lives marches
By Brandon Gustafson | Mar 28, 2018
Courtesy of: Jennifer Gregerson Kamiak junior Niko Battle speaking at the Everett March for Our Lives. Battle served on the planning committee for the Everett march.

Cities in Washington joined cities nationwide in the March for Our Lives this past Saturday.

The marches, which occurred in Everett, Marysville, Seattle and other cities in Washington, were opposing gun violence in the United States, and students helped organize the march, less than two weeks after students participated in the National School Walkout, also in protest of gun violence.

Mukilteo City Councilmember Richard Emery attended the march in Everett with his wife, Liza, and said he was happy to be able to support what young people across the country are doing.

“They have done an outstanding job framing and presenting the issues, as well as organizing and managing events here and around the country,” Emery said. “The singular achievement of these young people has been to make clear that the victims are not just those who are killed in mass shootings.

“The victims include, or course, the families and friends of those who were killed or wounded, but even more than that, it is all of our students in our schools, as well as all of us who visit shopping malls, theaters, and who are otherwise quietly going about our business in our neighborhoods and communities.”

Emery, who said he marched in the streets for racial justice and to end the Vietnam War, said he was “more than slightly embarrassed” that it took so long for him to get on the streets in support of stricter gun laws.

“I am grateful for the clarity and vision that perhaps can only come from younger people that has brought so many of us out to say ‘enough,’” Emery said.

Emery recently filed a motion at a Mukilteo City Council meeting to discuss how Mukilteo might address improving public safety.

“There are multiple reasons for changes in how we can maximize public safety, including the tragedy here two years ago, as well as the potential tragedy of a few weeks ago that was prevented by an alert family member,” Emery said.

At the Everett march, Mukilteo citizen Paul Kramer, whose son, Will, was shot at the Mukilteo house party shooting in July of 2016, was a speaker.

Kramer said his friend Pam Bohnet Gompf, who also spoke at the event, contacted him and that Gompf is friends with Paula Townsell, one of the adult co-leaders of the planning committee for the march.

“Pam asked me if I would be interested in speaking, and after I said yes, she gave my contact info to Paula, who then asked me to speak,” Kramer said. “Additionally, in the midst of those communications, I was contacted by Niko Battle (Kamiak student), one of the student leaders on the planning committee, who also asked me to speak at the event.”

Kramer spoke about the Mukilteo Shooting, the impacts of the loss of life, and the injuries to his son, Will.

“I spoke about the need to make changes in order to create a less violent, safer culture here in America, including implementing a ban on AR-15 type assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and implementing and vigorously enforcing an enhanced background check on all gun purchases,” Kramer said.

Kramer also invited those in attendance to Never Again: Mukilteo, a rally taking place this Saturday at noon at Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo

“I am so impressed and inspired by the energy and the size of this movement,” Kramer said. “The students, locally and nationally, are passionate, articulate, insightful, and very well-spoken. The number and size of the marches all across the country were absolutely amazing. It speaks to me as true democracy: when the people care enough to speak up for what's really important to them, and ask for the positive changes that need to happen when things are out of balance. It gives me hope for this country.”

Kramer also said he believes there needs to be more opportunities for students to be heard by their communities.

“I also think we, as a local community, and nationally as well, would do well to create regular opportunities for students to be heard by the wider community on all sorts of issues, interests and concerns,” Kramer said.

“Students are now being heard in new ways, more receptively. This is good; really good. It comes about now through the pressing need to address this critical issue: our kids shouldn't be afraid of getting killed at school.”

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson spoke at the Everett march as well, and proclaimed March 24, 2018, as “March for Our Lives Day” for the city of Mukilteo.

Gregerson also spoke about the Mukilteo shooting and its impact in the community, as well as encouraging people to vote, run for office, and help make change.

Niko Battle, a junior at Kamiak who served on the planning committee for the Everett march, said he was extremely happy with the turnout in Everett.

“We had about 2,000 people show up, and we were expecting (around) 700,” Battle said. “The march was so long that it took about 25 minutes from the front of the march finishing to the end of the march.”

Battle is hoping the march will show elected officials that the younger generation of voters is serious about causing change.

“The March for Our Lives was really important to me and all the organizers because this gun violence strikes so close to our community, and at times it feels as if our legislators are not motivated to actually create change,” Battle said.

“At the end of the day, I'm hoping that this march was able to show all elected officials in the area that students, the future voters, are not OK with the status quo. We will call BS.”

Jennifer Kwong, a Mukilteo mother of two, attended the Seattle march with her children Kirahlin, 6, and Romalin, 4, with hopes that they will stand up for what they believe in, like students across the country.

“I believe activism is important, and to stand up for what you believe in,” Kwong said. “If something doesn't feel right, you need to do something about it. I want my kids to know that it's OK to disagree. I am so proud of the student-led events and hope my children can take after their lead in the future.”

Vicki Bratvold, the owner of the house where the 2016 Mukilteo shooting took place, attended the march in Seattle, calling it “wonderful and powerful.”

“It was inspiring to be a part of something that was started by the young people of this country,” Bratvold said. “Gun violence is their reality, and they are concerned for their safety and their futures. They are tired of waiting for the powers that be to make changes to gun laws.

“There was also an awareness that with the power to vote, they (and we) have the power to elect those who can be behind change.”

Bratvold said bump stocks and assault weapons should only belong to members of the military and not common citizens.

“We need stricter background checks, and we need to look at social aspects such as mental health in gun violence,” Bratvold said. “Having experienced the devastation an assault weapon can do in less than a minute, I would have to say that we should reclassify these weapons. They are not guns, they are killing machines.”

Ketta Davis, Kamiak’s ASB president who organized the school’s walkout on March 14, attended the Seattle march with two other Kamiak students.

“The march was empowering. I really felt like we were eliciting change in our community,” Davis said. “I think things like the walkout and march are important because we practice our First Amendment rights, get the youth involved, and get to stand up for what we believe in with a movement bigger than just ourselves.”

Davis said the experience was made better seeing familiar faces in attendance.

“It was cool because myself and two other senior girls met up with some of the best teachers at Kamiak who also are passionate about this issue,” Davis said. “I liked seeing my teachers outside of school protesting for what is right and making their voices be heard too.”


Kamiak seniors Cailyn Cunningham, Erika Sears, Molly Goodrich and Emma Harrison posing with their sign at the Seattle March for Our Lives. (Courtesy of: Molly Goodrich)
Mukilteo citizen Jennifer Kwong and her children Romalin and Kirahlin at the Seattle march. (Courtesy of: Jennifer Kwong)
Mukilteo City Councilmember Richard Emery at the Everett March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, with his wife, Liza. Emery said he is happy to see younger people using their voices to cause change. (Courtesy of: Terry Preshaw)
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