Trinity Erazo and Yesenia Lopez are only 16. But already, they know what it's like to hide in fear from a campus shooter.
The University High School sophomores visited UCLA two years ago for their eighth-grade picnic. But they soon found themselves huddled inside a building and told to lock the doors and close the windows and tell their parents that there was an active shooter on campus. On the campus that day, June 1, 2016, a former doctoral student had killed his thesis adviser, then himself.
In the moment, the teens were terrified. Yesenia said she realized "people can just walk onto campus with a gun on a regular school day."
When Trinity heard news of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this February, she said she immediately wondered, "Why is this happening again?"
On Friday, the two friends joined about 200 of their University High School classmates on a 3½ -mile trek from their Brentwood campus to Santa Monica City Hall to push adults to work harder to curb gun violence.
In Santa Monica, they rallied alongside students from other schools, including Santa Monica and Venice high schools. Students carried signs saying such things as "Hands up! Don't shoot," and chanted "What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now," as drivers of passing cars revved their engines and honked in support.
They were just one of many gatherings of students in L.A. and nationwide who walked out of school at 10 a.m. to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting that killed 13 people in Littleton, Colo.
According to a central hub for organizing the protests — written by the students of Ridgefield High School in Connecticut — organizers encouraged their peers to push legislation to ban assault weapons and tighten up rules regulating who can buy guns and how.
"My future child should not have to go through the same thing that I did," Trinity said.
Across the L.A. area, students participated in voter registration drives and rallies in numerous spots, including outside Los Angeles Unfied School District headquarters downtown.
When students walked out before, as part of the March for Our Lives on March 14, the district had requested that they commemorate the lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., by staying on campus. Some ignored that directive. The district issued a similar statement this time, encouraging students to "take part in forums and other safe, peaceful activities held on campus."
District officials said they don't expect their philosophy on activism to change as walkouts become more frequent. L.A. Unified organized career days and assemblies at some schools to mark the day. Full-day absences were actually slightly lower this Friday than last.
At University High School, where an assembly with state and district officials had been planned, administrators seemed to accept the inevitable departure. Principal Eric Davidson warned students that as they crossed city lines, Santa Monica police might check that they "aren't under the influence" or hopping on trains for free. "Unfortunately, this is a day that is coinciding with another thing," he said, alluding to the fact that 4/20 is also a day people celebrate marijuana.
Student Jade Crawford, who said her mother's friend lost a child in Parkland, wanted to make sure her group took their outing seriously. "Some people are walking out because they just feel like they have the chance to get out of school, because it's 4/20," she said. "I want people to realize why this walkout is important: People have lost their lives."
Shortly after state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) arrived in the University High auditorium, students crept out the door.
At the assembly, several students of color spoke of the attention that shootings get when the victims are white.
"We haven't really been talking about gun violence in the life of minorities," one student told Allen.
Zoë Adams, a 17-year-old University High senior who lives in Inglewood, said she had "mixed views on the walkouts. … Nobody notices suffering until it is white tears crying."
Desaree Justiniano and Alexander Quinttero, 16-year-old juniors at Linda Esperanza Marquez High School, walked six miles from their Huntington Park school to district headquarters downtown.
Desaree and Alexander wore signs that asked, "AM I NEXT?" They said they wanted districts to hold school-wide drills to better prepare for the worst.
"Once we know what to do, I feel like we'll be safe," Alexander said.
At a school safety panel at Hollywood High School on April 8, L.A. Unified School Police Chief Steve Zipperman said teachers and administrators are trained, but students do not need active-shooter drills.
"Most kids would leave that training traumatized, having nightmares, wondering the next time they come into the school, 'Is this the next time I have to do this?' " Zipperman said. His approach, he said, was to have the adults lead.
Multiple students and adults told him they disagreed, and said they wanted to feel prepared in the way that they do for earthquakes or fires.