Around 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, thousands of students, teachers and faculty walked out of classrooms across the U.S. to protest in the National School Walkout. For 17 minutes, participants stood outside in solidarity for the 17 people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida shooting last month. The nationwide movement was also meant to send a message to Congress to pass stricter gun control laws and background checks prior to gun sales. Most schools were lenient with the protest, but some threatened disciplinary action if students decided to leave the building.
Here in Montclair as well, students unified and participated in the walkout. The Montclair High School brought police officers to the scene, where buses and cars were forced to make detours as students exited out of the buildings. Public transit dispatchers warned bus drivers to proceed with caution while driving.
At Montclair State University, both students and faculty stood outside, made speeches and had a moment of silence in front of the School of Communication and Media Building (SCM).
Students on campus shared their thoughts on the protest.
“I would’ve done the walk-out because there are a lot more [people] sending condolences than just saying sorry,” said sophomore Sydnee Bralow.
Communication and media arts major Dylan Caruthers also agreed the movement was important because it should raise awareness and bring attention to laws and why these things happen.
“Actions should obviously be taken, and I think it’s good for all of us to unify and bring it together and talk about it as a whole,” Caruthers said.
While many students from the SCM and the Student Center came together for the walkout, not all students participated in it.
“I could not attend because I had mandatory library hours during the walkout, but because it was right in front of where my class was, I probably would have,” said Theta Xi fraternity member Anton Specht.
Some students on campus also stated they were not aware of the protest, and that leaving in the middle of class was not right. For these reasons, it is arguable that the turnout could have been better than initially expected.
Faculty also gave their opinion on the walkout.
“It is heartening to see more students engaging in civic action in their campuses, community and using their actions to express their opinion on what they care about – their own safety on campuses,” said Information Management Professor Naushad Kollikkathara. “Though the walk-out can be seen as a token gesture, students could actually further this cause by taking on more active roles, engaging decision makers meaningfully and by actually learning how the governmental levers of power work. Keeping an open mind, listening to other perspectives respectfully, and learning to work toward mutually agreeable solutions without deserting the cause half-way, are all important elements of bringing about collective social change.”
We have to wonder how the walkout will affect Montclair State students. The school did not formerly issue a statement, and not all students joined the walkout. Will stricter gun reform actually come out of these protests? Are there possibly other ways to address the issue on campus that would have brought more students together?
While it is unlikely that Congress will readily implement legislation, the impact of the walkout is already being seen around the world. Students from Israel, the Czech Republic, Tanzania and London organized their own walkouts to show solidarity for gun violence in America.
What matters most will be the actions we take after the protests. This includes not only speaking out, but also going to the polls and voting for gun reform. By uniting together under a cause like the National School Walkout, we may be heading toward further progress in finding a solution to gun violence.