With the one-month anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida approaching on March 14, student voices are only growing louder in their efforts to gain attention from conservative lawmakers and pro-NRA lobbyist groups.
Thousands of students around the country plan to stage a walkout on this date for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives taken in the Florida tragedy (learn about hosting a walkout here), while the March For Our Lives demonstration is planned for March 24 and is expected to draw massive crowds around the country. As marches, press releases, petitions, and hashtags are circulating the country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the obvious: this current youth, especially those directly affected by gun violence, are not taking no as an answer in their quest for reform.
As elderly politicians in Washington spent the day last Wednesday, Feb. 28 lecturing the country as to why reform is more difficult than the current wave of youth may believe, students are turning their backs to naysayers and forging ahead with their plans — but where did all this confidence come from? Almost immediately, the students sprung into action and appear to be intensifying their efforts instead of weakening them. As stated by Emma Gonzales, an 18-year-old senior at Parkland, “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving … but instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send ‘thoughts and prayers,’ then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”
But while the next generation is a stark contrast from previous ones in terms of their willingness to protest gun violence, it’s perhaps not surprising if we take an objective view of the world they grew up in. For years, mass shootings have been increasingly publicized and in our public awareness — when the current high schoolers leading the movement were 11 or 12 years old, the Sandy Hook school massacre tragically gripped the nation. Since then, the Pulse nightclub tragedy, the Las Vegas shooting, and countless others have taken the stage and shaped the way this generation has viewed itself and the world. Executive editor of Teen Vogue Samhita Mukhopadhyay said in an interview with CNN that, “These are unspeakable tragedies that they have had to grow up with and they are saying absolutely no more.”
And these movements aren’t just creating noise, they’re raising money as well. A-list celebrities such as George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey have together pledged to back these protesters, donating $500,000 dollars each to help fund the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. movement on March 24. Students like Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior at the Parkland school, have started a GoFundMe page that has already raised over 2 million dollars for the same march in just weeks.
The climate here at UMass appears to echo this trend, with various students and student groups supporting the cause and fighting with their brothers and sisters around the nation. Victoria, a junior at UMass, said, “It’s fantastic that young people are becoming involved in expressing their First Amendment rights and discussing the second amendment.”
Marissa*, a sophomore, agreed. “It’s our right to protest and that people around the country are finally waking up to the situation and doing something about it,” she said.
Although these tragedies have not directly affected our lives, many students here at the university believe something must change — and if you’re one of them, don’t be afraid to share your voice as well.
*Name has been changed for privacy at request of the student.