Bait and switch: Vigil for young hero became an anti-gun rally, students walked out

A vigil that was to be a time for surviving students and their parents at STEM Highlands Ranch to remember and honor an 18-year-old hero turned into a political rally Wednesday. The Colorado charter school students were still reeling from the shock of a mass shooting the day before when two liberal gun-grabbing groups organized the vigil. Little did the organizers know that the students in attendance were not willing to be made into political pawns. They walked out.

Kendrick Castillo was only about a foot away when the shooter pulled out a gun in British literature class. Kendrick lunged at the shooter, giving cover for other students to run out of the room. Three other students tackled the gunman. Kendrick, an only child, died.

True followers of the old Rahm Emanuel adage, You never let a serious crisis go to waste, Moms Demand Action, and Team Enough used the horrific mass shooting to push their political agenda. The program they hastily put together included two politicians as speakers – Senator Michael Bennet, now running for the Democrat nomination for President, and Rep. Jason Crow. Crow represents Colorado’s 6th district and is Vice Chair of Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Crow is not a thoughts-and-prayers kind of guy. He tweets that it is weak and empty.

Another school hosted the vigil, Highlands Ranch High School. The organizers didn’t include any students as speakers. Instead of making it about Kendrick and the students, the message was clearly anti-gun. As the politicians started in with a call for gun control, students began filing out. They shouted their demand for mental health reform, not gun control.

Team Enough and Moms Demand Action put together the Wednesday evening gathering, and more than 100 students and several hundred parents from the STEM School packed into the gymnasium bleachers, hoping to find community and catharsis.

But after sitting through remarks by Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), and realizing the program was centered around changing gun laws, students who had hoped to speak lost patience and walked out en masse.

“This was not about us. We can do our own vigil,” one STEM student remarked.

Then the students held their own vigil.

The organizers claimed the students were left out of speaking slots during the vigil because it was all put together in such a short time. How difficult would it have been, though, to find some students who wanted to say a few words? Clearly, there were some who did because they quickly put together their own vigil and spoke.

“I feel terrible. They did not feel represented. I get it,” said Laura Reeves, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action who spoke at the vigil.

“This was put together in such a short time. I know they did their best. Emotions are raw and sad. They are grieving. They need to express their feelings. They need to be together. I am hoping their school can help facilitate that conversation beyond this week.”

The conflict wasn’t just that none of the students were allowed to participate, it was also that the vigil turned into a political rally against guns. The kids aren’t stupid. They knew they were being used as political pawns. Sadly, this result was predictable. Both Moms Demand Action (funded by Michael Bloomberg) and Team Enough (funded by Brady United Against Gun Violence) aggressively promote anti-gun legislation. A mass shooting at a school was too easy of an opportunity for them to miss.

Team Enough, via Brady, issued a statement. They admit the vigil was planned “to be responsive to the broader community”, which was their mistake. Supporting the students and parents was of secondary concern. Those who attended, though, thought it was about them, not the broader community.

I am not mentioning the names of the shooters. One is of legal age, a male who wrote anti-Christian and anti-Trump thoughts on social media. The other, a minor, is female and in the process of transitioning to male. The cries from students about mental health reforms are perfectly understandable. Politicians should pay attention and learn the lesson that the time of unimaginable grief isn’t the time for campaigning.