Almost 200 members of the Poet community gathered on Wednesday, March 14 to say #NeverAgain to school shootings and gun violence. This is in light of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting that took place in Florida on Feb. 14. This walk-out was organized by the Community Unity Club partnered with the Women’s March, with third-year student Taylor Charles and Professor of Religious Studies Rosemary Carbine acting as the voices of the event.
At 10:00 a.m. on March 14, students and faculty members stood at The Rock to listen to their peers speak out against gun violence. The protest lasted for 17 minutes, one minute for every victim of the Parkland shooting. The national walk-out was organized by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March, while the Whittier Walk-Out was organized by Community Unity Vice President fourth-year Maggie Niemann. “On a community level, it is an amazing opportunity for all of us to stand together and for the students to show up and show support,” said Niemann. “Their presence here alone speaks so much of what they and the school support.”
Members of Community Unity made signs and posters for the event. Two posters featured pictures of all the victims of the Parkland shooting and short descriptions of their lives. Two other posters were decorated with facts and diagrams about AR-15 assault rifles — the kind of assualt rifle was used in the Parkland shooting — and two more posters for attendees to sign in solidarity.
Charles gave a speech that focused on the inaction of congress and debunked commonly held beliefs about guns. “It’s incredibly important to spread awareness because all studies show that, after a major shooting, usually two months after, people stop caring so much about gun control and nothing ever really happens,” said Charles. “So, it’s important this time to actually maintain the power and energy that we’ve been maintaining because of the Parkland survivors, especially on colleges campuses.” Carbine also spoke at the event, ending her short speech by playing the song “Singing for Our Lives” by Holly Near, a well-known feminist, activist, and singer.
Students rallied behind the speeches, giving positive affirmations and commenting on what it means to be an activist and get support from the campus. “I really hope this motivates people because it was very well put together and [did] what it [was] supposed to do,” said first-year Bergen Flom, who attended the Walkout. First-year Vanessa Russo, who attended the event as well, said, “It shows the community that we have taken a step in the right direction, but we still have [a ways to go].” Community Unity will continue to work to promote student activism and student involvement within the campus community. “Whittier participating in this walkout as a school shows a lot about who we are and what we support as a campus,” said Niemann.
Community Unity will be collecting videos and pictures from the event and will compile them in a social media post as well as sponsor a voter registration table before the semester ends.