The Converse sneakers extended onto the coffee table and the friendship bracelets bedazzling the arms of the teenage girls on Tuesday night didn’t make the tone of the meeting any less serious — Colorado’s student activists were concerned about a social media threat connected to a protest they were planning against the NRA and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners on Saturday.
By Wednesday night, key organizers said the threats were too much and they planned to withdraw from the protest.
Being young and fluent in social media, the local teenagers were used to the occasional nasty comments on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and the like. But the crew crowded onto Kaylee Tyner’s family’s gray couch Tuesday night was trying to cope with nasty and sometimes violent threats against them for their gun-control beliefs.
While classmates are soaking up a fleeting summer vacation, these young Colorado activists are busy planning marches and protests in the wake of school shootings that have plagued their academic years. Student groups with like-minded gun control missions like Never Again Colorado and Students Demand Action are developing friendships across the board that make planning events like Saturday’s upcoming protest more manageable.
Plans for the march, meant to spotlight how the NRA influences politicians, are now up in the air.
“We’ve had some bumps in the road,” Mikaela Lawrence, an incoming senior at Columbine High School said Tuesday before students decided the threats were too serious to ignore. “Just normal stuff like threats, but I think we’re going to be OK.”
A friend sent Tay Anderson, former president of gun control advocacy group Never Again Colorado who remains an activist, a text message featuring a threatening Facebook comment. The comment — its origins unknown — said the commenter was printing up 3-D guns to bring to a rally. In all caps, it read “MY RIGHTS ARE WORTH MORE THAN YOUR LIFE.”
Anderson didn’t know whether the comment was related to their Saturday protest at the State Capitol building at noon, but he didn’t want to take any chances. The 20-year-old reported the message to the Denver Police Department.
Denver Police spokeswoman Christine Downs said officials wouldn’t confirm whether the threat was credible, but that they do look at all threats and work with event organizers to make sure everything is secure.
A counter-protest organized by local Second Amendment-advocacy group Rally for our Rights is planned for 11 a.m. — an hour before the teens’ rally. The organization asks attendees to leave partisan symbols like Trump flags at home and to focus on the message that not everyone shares anti-gun sentiments. The group also asks attendees not to open carry.
Dudley Brown, a gun lobbyist and founder and executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said his group doesn’t plan a counter-protest, but that he understands why the group would receive threats.
“Do I believe people should act violently?” Brown asked. “No, of course not. When you make controversial statements on politics, crazies come out and send you things. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.”
The Denver March on the NRA was planned as one of several similar events across the country. The downtown protest was to feature family of Aurora theater shooting and Columbine victims along with other speakers impacted by gun violence.
Charlie Jones, who just graduated from Manual High School, had football practice on the brain until he watched his buddy Anderson lead a march down the 16th Street Mall and realized there were more important things he wanted to be a part of.
“When I’m reading about the Civil Rights protests in class and women’s suffrage, I realized those people were just normal people like us,” Jones said. “It’s weird to think we’re doing things like they are, and we’re just a bunch of teenagers. We like to have fun, but we also give a damn.”