By Samantha Bartholomew
A small cluster of Riverside City College students gathered at the entrance of the A.G. Paul Quadrangle to raise awareness about issues of gun control.
Students and teachers throughout the nation walked out of their classrooms March 14 as part of the National School Walkout to raise awareness about issues of school safety and the impact of gun violence.
The walkout was to commemorate the one month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“Our children are being slaughtered in what should be their safest environment,” RCC student Lori Glass said. “The time for silence or thoughts and prayers are over.”
The demonstration was organized by RCC student Kayla O’Connell, who said she was inspired by the students of Parkland who sprung into action in the aftermath of the Florida shooting.
“This is such an important conversation that deserves to hold our attention as long as possible,” O’Connell said.
The nationwide march, organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, began at 10 a.m. Many marches lasted 17 minutes, to represent each of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“We view this work as part of an ongoing and decades long movement for gun violence prevention, in honor of all victims of gun violence — from James Brady to Trayvon Martin to the 17 people killed in Parkland,” stated the Women’s March Youth Empower website.
“Sometimes, history has shown us that as adults we become complacent and accepting of an unjust world,” Mary Figueroa, Board of Trustee secretary, said. “It has taken the younger generation to show us the way.”
Figueroa referenced her thoughts that some of the most notable movements in history have been led and driven by students.
“It happened during the civil rights movement and with the issue of gun violence it appears to be happening again,” Figueroa said. “As students, we are more open intellectually to varied points of view, regardless of the consequences. More power and support to the students. I’m very proud of their active stand on such a violent issue.”
The subject was particularly personal to Wendy Miller-Aceves, an RCC student and a mother of two non-school aged children.
“Our children are worth 100 soldiers and 100 million of adults, but we don’t value them to the extent we should,” Miller-Aceves said. “Our children are speaking out and fighting back because our lawmakers won’t.”
“I’m kind of disappointed in the lack of involvement from other RCC students,” RCC student Janelle Leman said. “As college students, we should be just as involved as the high schoolers are.”
While many praised the teenagers that participated in the walkouts, some were not so impressed.
“Politicians swing wherever the money is,” RCC student Louis Calhoun said. “Unless each of these kids is sporting thousands of dollars, it’s not going to pack a big enough punch.”
On the morning of the walkout, many parents posted that, instead of walking out, students should “walk up,” the suggestion encouraged students to make more efforts to befriend students that seem isolated from their classmates.
While the sentiments were appreciated by some, many were quick to point out that the idea could easily be compared with arguing that an abuse victim could’ve done something to stop the abuse by acting a certain way.
“It shouldn’t matter what the shooter’s social status was before they murdered their classmates,” RCC student Daniella Herrera said. “Why do we constantly blame the victim for the actions of others?”
According to a report put out by CNN, there has been an average of one mass shooting a week since the beginning of 2018.
Starting with the shooting of Winston-Salem State University football player Najee Ali Baker on Jan. 20 and ending with the most recent school shooting March 20 at Baltimore, Maryland’s Great Mills High School that ended with the injuries of two students and the eventual killing of the unnamed shooter.
On a national level, the opinions of politicians appeared unchanged.
The week of the nationwide walkouts was the same week that Trump abandoned gun control proposals that the Republican-led Congress were never suspected of supporting to begin with.
“They forget that we’re the ones they’re meant to serve,” Calhoun said. “Not the NRA.”
The WMYE said that they believe that it is a critical time for lawmakers to pay attention because the movement will not disappear like so many have before.
“We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns,” Action Network said in a statement. “Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address the public health crisis of gun violence.
“We want Congress to pay attention and take note: many of us will vote this November and many others will join in 2020,” the organization said.
“This generation is tired of being told to sit on their hands while our representatives make decisions that they will never have to live with,” Leman said.