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PHS students stand up to gun violence in National Walkout Day

Video courtesy of Education Week.

On March 14, Parkdale students walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence and mass shootings going on in this country. At approximately 9:50 AM, students from classes of all subjects got up from their desks and headed out the door. The students were lead to the front of the school and eventually integrated with a march towards the school’s track field.

The protest was led by Parkdale’s Student Government Association(SGA), who carried signs reading “Books Not Bullets” and chanted statements like “Parkdale against gun violence”. Once the protest reached the field, everyone took a lap around the track, which ended with members of SGA giving fiery speeches on why they were there to protest and where they stood on the divisive issue of gun control.

“We are here today to take a stand against gun violence,”’’ said junior Amanya Paige. “And this is the first step. This is not the end; this is the beginning.’’

Following the speeches, seventeen yellow and green balloons were released to honor the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, followed by a moment of silence for each of the victims.

While SGA made their voices heard on issues of gun control and mass shootings, many other Parkdale students were just as energized on the issue of gun violence. While it can’t be ignored that there were students out there who just wanted the excuse to walk out from class, many were there for a reason.

Even though members of SGA were very vague on what laws or policies they wanted changed, other students, like sophomores Jason Romero and Musukula Sesay and senior Obina Ezeaiofor, were more specific in what change they wanted to see in this country.

“We are out here to protest gun violence and advocate gun laws that are strict with the distribution of automatic weapons to be easily bought,” Ezeaiofor explained. “I just know it shouldn’t be right for a 19 or 18 year old to easily obtain a gun; at least let them be of age. People have to be 21 to drink alcohol, but can be 18 to purchase a weapon that can end multiple people’s lives.”

While there is a federal law that restricts gun dealers from selling weapons to anyone under 21, each state has their own age requirements on gun purchasing. States like Virginia, Tennessee  and Alabama allow the purchase of firearms under the age of 18.

Even so, that wasn’t the only demand for change by a Parkdale student.

“I would like more background checks,” said Romero. “I would like to up the age on being able to buy an assault rifle and for police to check on the buyer to see if they have any trauma or things like that.’’

A more hands-on law enforcement may be needed in this country and could have possibly  saved the lives of those 17 Parkland students. It wasn’t revealed until after the shooting that the FBI were tipped of the potential dangers of the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, this past January. Yet the agency failed to act on the tip, and over a month later Cruz went on a killing spree, murdering both students and staff.

The walkout was not just demands for change through legislation, but it also struck an emotional cord in a lot of student.

“I really researched about the Florida shooting [and] I learned that 17 young lives died,” Sesay said. “Freshmen and seniors ready to go to college, like a few months away from graduating, going to the next chapter of life, lost their lives on that day and didn’t even know it. People who will never see their children again, it’s serious and I don’t think this isn’t something to be joked around with. I think our government and people in power failed us.’’

Even though there were many students who wanted the the U.S.’s gun laws to change, there were also students who didn’t want to take part in the walkout. Some had no choice as their teachers would give them zeros if they did walk out, while others just didn’t believe the protest was enough.

“…I didn’t want to waste my time because it wasn’t going to change anything,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. “Plus you guys only went to the field, where nobody can see what you’re protesting.”

Parkdale students may disagree with the effectiveness of this protesting style, but most students shared the opinion that there is a gun problem in this country and that it is a good thing that students are becoming more politically charged and active.

Protests like Parkdale’s happened all over the country on March 14 to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting and call for stricter gun laws in the United States. The National Walkout Day received much media attention as close to 3,000 students went to the White House and the Capitol to urge Congress and President to pass laws that prevent what happened at Parkland, to happen at their schools.