On February 14th, 2018, yet another mass shooting took the lives of many innocent people. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, three staff members and fourteen students were murdered, their bright futures brutally stolen. The pain felt by the Parkland community echoed throughout the country. Mass shootings continue to happen, taking hundreds of innocent lives each year, but nothing seems to be done to prevent tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and now, Parkland, from happening again. Like students across the country, teens in the Madison area know that something desperately needs to change. In conjunction with National Walkout Day, student activists from Memorial and other area high schools organized a protest against gun violence.
March 14th 2018—one month after the massacre in Parkland. At precisely 10am, Memorial students filed out of their classes in the middle of second hour and gathered around the flagpole facing Gammon Road. For seventeen minutes we stood there, taking a moment of silence to honor each life lost in the Parkland tragedy. Following this moving display of solidarity, more than 700 Memorial students, armed with compelling, colorful signs and clad in bright orange, boarded buses en route to East High School across town. There, they united with over 3,000 student protesters from across the greater Madison area. Beginning at East High School, the massive and passionate coalition marched 2.6 miles down East Washington Avenue to the State Capitol building.
Parents, supporters, and employees of local business watched from the sidewalk as chants of “Hey hey! Ho ho! The NRA has got to go!,” rang out in unison from the young activists. In a call-response-pattern, students passionately exclaimed, “What do we want?” “Gun control!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” Upon reaching the Capitol, a few hundred students moved the rally inside of the Capitol rotunda, while others continued to call for action and listen to speakers outside. The speakers included the Madison march organizers, as well as local social activists and state lawmakers. Student activists flooded the rotunda, powerfully calling out “Are we next?” and “I don’t wanna die in school!” A group of student leaders from various Madison schools proceeded to the office of Governor Scott Walker to deliver a letter demanding that Wisconsin legislators pass universal background checks, raise the minimum age for purchasing an automatic assault rifle to 21, make bump stocks more challenging to obtain, and require gun safety and training as well as making this training more accessible. Although Walker was at an event in Florence County, the students left the letter- complete with an attached 30 pages of student signatures- with one of the governor’s office assistants. The day of peaceful protest and unity officially concluded at 3pm, although some students continued to call for change late into the afternoon.
– Claire Reid