SWFL Students Hold Die-In in Front of NRA-Funding Bank

Aug 7, 2018

A group of high schoolers in Collier County held a die-in Monday in memory of those killed in the Santa Fe school shooting which happened in May, three months after the school massacre in Parkland. 

Just off of 5th Avenue South in downtown Naples, members of Collier Students for Change lay down on the sidewalk and closed their eyes. They stayed “dead” for 10 minutes – a minute for each victim of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.

Their venue, though, was not a public park or outside of a government official’s office. It was the sidewalk in front of the local Wells Fargo branch.

“It is not against Wells Fargo as a corporation, but we are just protesting their decision to support the NRA," Anna Barry said. "They are the go-to bank for the NRA and help them access a line of $28 million in credit.”

16-year-old Barry held a sign that asked its readers: “Am I Next?”

16-year-old Anna Barry holds a sign that asks its readers, "Am I next?"
Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU

Beside her was Michaela O’Brien. The fellow 16-year-old wore a shirt made to look like it was soaked in blood, and around her neck was a price tag that marked her worth at $1.05 – or how much money Florida Senator Marco Rubio accepted from the NRA, divided by the number of students in the state.

But, O’Brien has been an activist for longer than many of her peers.

“My mom, after I came out, she dragged me to the vigil in city hall after the Pulse nightclub shooting," O'Brien said. "And, that’s when I realized I had to help.”  

Michaela O'Brien holds a childhood photo of she and her best friend participating in their annual tradition of dressing up around the holidays for their photos at the local mall in New Jersey. She said looking at the photo now, the memory has been soured by Wells Fargo's support of the NRA.
Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU

At first, O’Brien said she geared her aid efforts mainly toward the LGBT community because she felt she couldn’t take on the gun culture in America. But, after Parkland, the high school junior has become the regional representative for March for Our Lives. She has sat on panels with survivors of the February 14th shooting, and she has led events like this one. But, she is also planning to buy a handgun as soon as she turns 21.

Nearby, Barry offered an explanation.

“This isn’t a second amendment issue," Barry said. "We just want to make sensible gun legislation and ban assault weapons, which are not necessary in civilian lifestyles.”

O’Brien’s father is retired military. He served 6 years in the Marines and the following 17 in the Army. So, she said she understands the safety families feel owning firearms in their home, but she will continue pushing for an assault weapons ban all the same.

“I have, right now, dedicated my life to March for Our Lives," O'Brien said.

Almost six months after Parkland, her fellow Collier Students for Change agreed. They said they’re not done fighting – or laying down in the summer heat or chanting as loud as they can in the predominantly Republican county – not until they achieve the “change” their group’s name demands.