Hundreds of students walked out of an interfaith vigil Wednesday night for the victims of the Highlands Ranch STEM School shooting after speakers put the focus to gun control and politics.
Students began shouting “this is not for us,” “political stunt,” and “we are people, not a statement” at the vigil, according to USA Today, which featured Colorado Democrats Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jason Crow, as well as representatives from the Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action.
The memorial, organized by the Brady Campaign and held at Highlands Ranch High School, was bill as a vigil for 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who was killed in the Tuesday attack, but the political tone upset those who said they felt they were being used as pawns.
“It was really sad,” parent Lisa Lopez told Fox31 in Denver. “All those kids wanted was to be heard as part of the grieving process, and I think they had that right. I don’t think it should have been turned into something political about gun control.”
Outside, some students shouted, “mental health, mental health.” Others returned to the gym and took the mic in an effort to refocus attention on the victims of Tuesday’s attack, which left one dead and seven injured.
“This was not a vigil. This was a purely political stunt. This is not what we wanted for Kendrick,” said one student who spoke at the event, according to 9News in Denver.
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The Brady Campaign issued a statement Thursday apologizing for the vigil, saying that the gun control organization “has always been and always will be supportive of individuals and communities who have experienced the horrors of gun violence.”
“We are deeply sorry any part of this vigil did not provide the support, caring and sense of community we sought to foster and facilitate and which we know is so crucial to communities who suffer the trauma of gun violence,” the statement said.