Portsmouth Students Protest Gun Violence: 'We Won't Stand For It Any Longer'

Mar 15, 2018

In Portsmouth, students had planned a walkout for the morning but it was interrupted by the snow storm, which caused a delayed school opening.

But that didn’t keep Portsmouth students from having their message heard.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, several dozen students, flanked by encouraging adults, gathered in Market Square in downtown Portsmouth.

Many had been checked out of school by their parents to come to the event. Others left school on their own.

And unlike a similar event today at Concord High School, the students here were leaning into the politics of the moment. They held signs that read things like "protect kids, not guns" and "our lives are more important than your guns."

“I want to see change happen," said Nora Mitchell, a junior. "I want the government to notice us and know that we are done with this and we won’t stand for it any longer. We need better laws.”

Adults, including some teachers, mostly hung back, offering words of encouragement to the students leading the event. 

Portsmouth High School students called on state and federal lawmakers to enact tougher restrictions on guns.
Credit Jason Moon / NHPR

The students received a mostly positive reaction from motorists making their way through Market Square.

Portsmouth High School student John McDevitt said holding the protest here, where they have an actual audience, was better than what the school would have allowed them to do on campus. "I don't know if this group of kids is going to change something just by coming out here today," he said. "But I know that nothing is going to happen if we stay in our schools. And I know that - I'm 17, I don't know what I can do, but I know that I can do this."

The political nature of the protest drew some negative reactions. At one point, a student chant referred to the NRA with an expletive. A motorist driving by honked his horn and shook his finger at the crowd as if to say "shame on you."

But it wasn’t just the attention of passers-by that the students attracted.

Four Democrats running for the state’s 1st Congressional District made appearances. They called the students inspiring -- and, perhaps, looked to see who was old enough to vote this fall.