“No more silence, end gun violence!”: Students participate in nationwide walkout
On March 14 at 10 a.m., what began as a group of roughly 50 students standing on the steps of Memorial Hall and the North Green quickly grew into a dense crowd of hundreds as students put down their books and pencils to leave their classrooms. The walkout served as a symbolic commemoration of the victims of the mass shooting on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Students, administrators and activists from the university joined thousands of other students across the country in this demonstration as part of the National School Walkout. Demonstrators expressed support for greater gun control legislation in solidarity with mass shooting victims and their families.
The National School Walkout lasted 17 minutes in memoriam of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. The event was organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, a women-led grassroots movement advocating various progressive social platforms including civil rights and environmental protections. According to their website, Women’s March officially endorses universal background checks for gun sales, a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines and police demilitarization.
Those attending the walkout formed a circle on the North Green, where a few students sporadically came into the middle to give speeches and chants. The demonstrators repeatedly called on all those present to text “P2P” to RTVOTE (788-683) in order to register to vote or update one’s voter registration status. Students were encouraged to sign an electronic letter to legislators as well as a large symbolic letter to the U.S. Congress that was taped to the brick walkway at the steps of Memorial Hall.
The most frequently repeated chant at the event was “No more silence, end gun violence!”
Participation in the walkout at the university was led by Mikayla Stoveland, a senior majoring in criminal justice and minoring in women’s studies and political science. Stoveland, who has also worked with Women’s March in the past, in addition to leading chants, delivered the opening speech.
“We demand laws to protect our students, because no one should fear coming to school,” Stoveland, through a megaphone said. “Please come and sign our pledge or grab a sign to show your support. Make your own sign to say what you have to say to stand up to gun violence.”
There were a number of university administrators and faculty observing the walkout. University President Dennis Assanis came to watch the rally and expressed approval of the students’ activism.
“Gun violence has no place in schools,” Assanis said. “As a society, I think we need to be more responsible and more united. These students stand united against gun violence.”
Delaware State Rep. for the 23rd District Paul S. Baumbach attended the walkout. He applauded the students for their activism, particularly the call to register to vote.
“We have legislation that wouldn’t be before lawmakers if it wasn’t for these young adults,” Baumbach said. “This engagement by the citizens, it’s saying that they’re tired of having this country run by the gun lobby. And they recognize their roots, that this protest is on the shoulders of Columbine and Parkland. We’re making progress. It’s real. I like this quote from Elizabeth Warren about this movement. She said ‘This isn’t a battery that runs low, its a muscle that gets stronger with use’.”
Students distributed flyers and pins that read “Finish the Job!” from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The Brady Campaign, a gun control activism group based out of Washington D.C., is dedicated to Jim Brady, former President of the United States Ronald Reagan’s Press Secretary, who was shot and paralyzed during the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, and Brady’s wife, Sarah Brady, who was a Republican activist that fought to pass gun control legislation. Fliers from the Brady Campaign distributed by students at the walkout advocated voting, donation, activism and engagement.
Staci Pinkowitz, a sophomore communications and anthropology double major, spoke about one of the event’s central messages: the importance of voting.
“We’re here for all the students who couldn’t be with us today,” Pinkowitz said. “Vote, please vote! We’re never going to end gun violence if you don’t get out and vote. All of us have the ability to be heard. We are young, and we’re Americans. Look at how many of us there are!”
As a contribution to the walkout, students from the Department of Music sang a rendition of “O Lord, Please Hear My Prayer” outside the Amy E. duPont Music Building.
“As educators, as musicians, but most importantly as human beings we recognize the power that music has to make a difference,” Haley E. Graham, a music education student, said before the singing began. “because the more we are a choir, the more the tune is forced to change.”