The National Walkout- A Stand by Students Against Gun Violence
by Amulya Aluru
On March 14, 2018, students across the United States walked out of school at 10:00 a.m. to honor the victims of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. and protest for gun control reform. Participants spent 17 minutes in silence to remember those who died exactly a month before, one minute for every life lost. This monumental day was a call to young people in the world to step up and make their voices heard. Historically, legislation in America has been slow to change and only starts reforming after a push from the public. After periodic mass shootings (many of which are in schools) have marred the nation for years, the future generation of lawmakers and representatives is taking a stand as a collective to prevent more innocent casualties and reform current laws regarding the possession of firearms.
Many students at Northside express similar hopes and desires to stand up for what they believe. However, as the minimum voting age is 18, the majority of the school has no direct say in elections to determine their representatives. That is why Sophie Lee, Adv. 804, one of the organizers of the walkout, sought to express the seriousness of the situation to lawmakers both in Chicago and on Capitol Hill. Lee, a member of the Chicago Student Union club at Northside, run by Sam Tweedy, Adv. 810, shares that “gun control is an issue that, I think, we all cared about and we thought it would be a good idea to have one [a walkout] at Northside.” She admits that initially, the club was unsure how many people would participate, but were very pleased with the high number of students who decided to walk out. However, other schools, whether it be from personal beliefs or fear of consequence, did not have the same turnout. At Northside, the administration was supportive of the peaceful protest and ensured that students who joined would not be reprimanded for doing so. Students at other schools were not as fortunate. Across the nation, many protesters received detentions and their records were tarnished.
Social media has also been a tremendous catalyst for change, as both a campaigning platform and as a way to learn more about different issues. In a generation more connected than any other, what happens to one teenager indirectly affects another. Despite being potentially harmful, this intricate web of interconnectedness magnifies the impact protesters and activists have on changing the agenda of politicians and making sure democracy is preserved.
Lee knows that when the Class of 2018 graduates, students at Northside will continue to stay involved by campaigning, protesting, and organizing. She hopes that because so many people have shown interest in getting involved in politics and decisions that affect them, those who are unsure of how they want to express their ideas will be inspired to stand up for what they believe in.
However, this walkout, albeit large-scale and very impactful, will not transform the politics and legislation that has been engraved into the country since its inception. Lee agrees, admitting, “I definitely think that this is not going to change everything and I think that is one of the major criticisms with walkouts and these really small protests… but even though we are just one school… kids all over the country walked out and there are also going to be marches on the 24th… it [gun control] is definitely gaining momentum right now, [and] I think change is going to happen.” Lee’s optimistic attitude is something the young adults and teens of today share. Still, it is important to acknowledge that, like other divisive issues, there are many sides to this national debate. Regardless of their beliefs, Lee encourages anyone who is “interested in activism to take that leap [because]... if we want anything to change, it is definitely going to be because the majority of people in our country want it.”
This large-scale protest marks a tangible start to the movement to end gun violence and stop mass shootings. For those interested in campaigning further, there will be a March for Our Lives protest on Saturday, March 24, in major cities across the nation; the protest in Chicago will start at 11:00 a.m. at Union Park. More information can be found on the website: event.marchforourlives.com.
Regardless of one’s position on gun control, the voices of teenagers must be heard. The future of the United States is not in the hands of baby-boomer politicians, but in the hands of millenials.