'Traumatizing': Sandy Hook survivor at NCSU joins anti-gun violence protest in wake of UNC lockdowns

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Friday, September 15, 2023
NC students walk out of class to protest gun violence
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"I've lost a lot of just like happiness that I could have had if this wasn't an issue. It's something you have to live with forever," Criss Berke said.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some students across the state of North Carolina walked out of class at noon on Friday in an organized protest against gun violence.

The group behind the protest is called Students Demand Action.

The group cited two lockdowns in two weeks at the University of North Carolina as the tipping point that resulted in this protest.

"We should not have to be afraid of gun violence on our campuses and in our communities and whether a bullet will shatter our futures and fracture our communities," the group said in a statement about the protests.

Students at NC State said the lockdowns at UNC Chapel Hill hit close to home. Many NC State students know people at the UNC campus and were scared for them when the lockdowns happened.

These are also students who have had to live in fear of guns in schools most of their lives.

"I've had professors say, 'If something happens, this door can open from outside. We can block this,'" said Joey Thomas, an NC State freshman.

"This has been our lives for years and so we know a lot about this," said NC State student Amelia Wilmoth.

For her, the last two lockdowns at UNC sparked her to want to push back.

"I was just very angry and upset, and I just knew that enough is enough, and we needed to do something to cause some change," Wilmoth said. Wilmoth founded the NC State chapter of Students Demand Action.

Students Demand Action said its members are "sick and tired of inaction" from North Carolina lawmakers.

"I feel like it shouldn't be our campus' responsibility to have to keep us safe from guns like that -- just shouldn't be. It shouldn't even be a problem that they should have to look out for us," Wilmoth said.

That comes days after a protest at the General Assembly calling on politicians to do something to help. Students protesting were escorted out of the General Assembly while they chanted "vote them out," at the very politicians who the students see as sitting idly by while people get shot.

For NC State student Criss Berke, advocating for common sense gun laws has been a part of her life from an early age. That's because she was at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people. She hid from the gunman then, and her life has never been the same since.

"I've lost a lot of just like happiness that I could have had if this wasn't an issue. It's something you have to live with forever," she said.

In fact, her twin was at UNC two weeks ago when the campus went on lockdown for a shooting on campus.

"It was really traumatizing to have to be worried about that again," Berke said.

She joined dozens of others at the North Carolina legislature building earlier this week in another effort to push lawmakers to listen.

With shootings continuing and some lawmakers effectively loosening gun laws in North Carolina, Berke and other students said they will continue to fight to have their voices heard.

"I just hope people take out of this that what we do like will matter," Berke said.

SEE ALSO | Two shootings at UNC Chapel Hill 30 years apart show how much has changed