Students, professors walkout during 10 a.m. classes to protest gun violence

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The College of William and Mary was one of 3,000 registered schools participating in a walkout March 14 at 10:00 a.m. SYDNEY MCCOURT / THE FLAT HAT

A procession of students, professors and community members stretched across the Sunken Garden this morning at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The walkout officially lasted 17 minutes, one in memory of each of the victims of the shooting, but participants lingered on the Sunken Garden long past the designated time to sign a banner to express support for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to get their hands stamped with a black ribbon to spread awareness of gun violence prevention.

This walkout was part of a nationwide effort. There were 3,000 registered school walkouts March 14 across the country, according to ENOUGH National School Walkout.

As participants arrived they formed a long line in order to sign the banner and the organizers also used the event as an opportunity to provide information about Students Demand Action, a club they are starting on campus to advocate for gun sense and effect change in the area of gun policy. The signed banner will be sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The College of William and Mary’s chapter of Students Demand Action falls under the umbrella of a national organization called Everytown for Gun Safety. The organizers of the walkout, Samyuktha Mahadevan ’19 and Matthew McCauley ’20, said they decided to start the club in response to the onslaught of school shootings that occur in the United States.

An interest meeting for Students Demand Action will be held this Friday, March 16 from 3-4 p.m. in Washington Hall Room 201.

“Our goal is to create an organization here on campus for students to engage with their representatives, with each other and with the greater community,” Mahadevan said.

“Our goal is to create an organization here on campus for students to engage with their representatives, with each other and with the greater community,” Mahadevan said.

Many students walked out of their 10 a.m. classes to participate in the walkout; however, other students came to the Sunken Garden in solidarity despite not having class. Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20 falls in the latter group; she came even though she did not have a class until noon.

“It’s just so important to show solidarity with the millions of people who are affected by gun violence each year and also just to show that lawmakers that enough is enough,” Vita said.

The political statement was not limited to students: professors participated in the walkout too. Russian studies professor Bella Ginzbursky-Blum participated in the walkout and allowed her students to leave class for the designated 17 minutes if they chose to as well.

“I’ve been upset for many many years, I’ve made many phone calls and many donations for this cause already,” Ginzbursky-Blum said. “I think it’s wonderful that students are finally organizing and voicing their opinions very strongly.”

Dalton Lackey ’20, who was taking photos for the event, said he chose to participate because he is passionate about gun control.

“This is one of the most important youth movements of today,” Lackey said. “It’s a way for students to branch out and have a say in politics today. I think common-sense gun laws are something that most Americans agree on — it’s just that legislation needs to get passed.”

Lackey also said that he was participating because he felt the very real risk of violence as a student on a college campus today.

“Right now I think students are recognizing that lives are at risk,” Lackey said. “Even if [stricter] gun laws take away the risk of one or two children dying, it’s worth it. I think these students are recognizing that, as of now, they’re at risk on college campuses of having weapons used against them. So this is something really important and easy for students to be a part of. It doesn’t require too much effort, but it definitely makes a statement.”

“Right now I think students are recognizing that lives are at risk,” Lackey said. “Even if [stricter] gun laws take away the risk of one or two children dying, it’s worth it. I think these students are recognizing that, as of now, they’re at risk on college campuses of having weapons used against them. So this is something really important and easy for students to be a part of. It doesn’t require too much effort, but it definitely makes a statement.”

To McCauley and Mahadevan, the event’s turnout, in spite of the cold weather, is a heartening symbol that the College community is engaged in this issue.

“It’s been really reassuring that students really care,” Mahadevan said.

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