Freshman Eliana Ulloa said she remembers feeling her crying mother’s tight grip after mass school shootings like Sandy Hook. Ulloa felt school was no longer a safe environment. A few weeks before the Parkland shooting, a high school classmate of Ulloa’s committed suicide after accessing a parent’s firearm.
“It’s not OK that she had easy access,” Ulloa said. “We need to know our action [at the walkout] will have an impact.”
Ulloa held a sign above the crowd in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul during Wednesday’s national school walkout. The sign read “Protect people not guns” in bold black and pink writing.
Despite 30-degree weather and over a foot of day-old snow, about 200 Emerson students walked out of class at 10 a.m. to honor the 17 victims killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla. a month prior.
Emerson community members gathered on the corner of Boylston and Tremont streets carrying signs that read, “We are lucky to go to school, we shouldn’t be lucky to go home,” and, “Enough is enough!” Walkout participants made their way to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. There, Somerville High School student organizers held advocacy training with representatives from the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, State Rep. David Linsky, D-Middlesex, and State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Essex.
Over 2,000 Somerville High students walked out in honor of the Parkland shooting victims on Feb. 28, the first protest in Massachusetts. Somerville students have been core organizers in the larger Boston march—including student organizer Charlotte Lowell.
“I think hearing the Parkland students speaking out about gun violence was a real inspiration, but also recognizing the power of youth voices,” Lowell said. “We have the power to change the world.”
Walkout participants entered the State House at 12 p.m. to hear a series of speeches from students and legislators. Organizers split walkout participants into groups based on their school and gave them a list of politicians to lobby.
Students were lobbying for state legislators to pass a bill allowing police to restrict individuals labeled as an extreme risk from owning or purchasing firearms.
Similar walkouts occurred across the country to address gun violence and push Congress to enact stricter gun legislation. Emerson administrators such as President M. Lee Pelton, Vice President and Dean for Campus Life James Hoppe, and Associate Dean for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp joined the Boston walkout.
The Student Action Network, a small collective of college students who spread the word about demonstrations and policies “threatening democracy,” organized the Emerson walkout with the Women’s March, a women-led advocacy group, and its youth affiliate EMPOWER.
Student Action Network organizer and senior Matthew Mogavero grew up with a gun securely locked away, out of sight in his house.
“I admire … people wanting to defend themselves. I get that,” Mogavero said. “But, we do need to … look at the effect gun violence has … on our communities. If we need to have a national conversation, then let’s have it.”
According to Time Magazine, there have been 63 shootings since 2013 resulting in an injury or death of a student or teacher due to gunfire on school property. Within the 63 shootings, 41 people were killed and 104 were injured.
In an email to the Emerson community on March 13, Pelton expressed his support for those wishing to assemble in honor of the Parkland victims. However, he said faculty retained the right to make attendance decisions according to their individual policies if students are absent from class.
“It’s important, after this last attack in Florida, for young people to come out in great numbers to request that the Congress act and develop a set of legislation that will seek to correct this cancer in our society,” Pelton said in an interview.
In a series of tweets on Feb. 24, the college also said it welcomes applications from students who wish to protest peacefully and will not punish those who choose to participate.
As Dean Hoppe walked into the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, he turned to put his name on a sign-in sheet. Looking out at the crowd of students gathered in the church, he thought of his kids, and said he finds it hard to understand why tragedies such as the Parkland shooting still occur.
“After everytime one of these things happens, I give my kids an extra kiss on the way out the door just because you can’t help to think [it might happen to you],” he said. “I can’t imagine it. It’s not fair.”
News Editor Shafaq Patel did not edit this article due to a conflict of interest.