Daisy Conant '18
The power of a protest like Wednesday’s derives from public dissent by communities who feel disappointed in or forgotten by their elected officials, those who are meant to be an extension of the voices of citizens who are fearing for their lives. While it rings true that the power of historical movements can be embodied by their rebellious nature, Jones students chose to walk out in solidarity not only with the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives, but for those in our nation and community who are affected by gun violence every single day. Prior to the walkout, I felt that focusing on whether or not we were rebelling enough for our message to be authentic detracted from our ultimate goal of creating conversation surrounding policy and change. I felt that breaking the status quo and standing up in the face of adversity is what a protest should be about, but that fixating on administration’s overreaching involvement detracted from the message that students are fed up with gun violence.
In the wake of the walkout, I wholeheartedly agree that administration’s involvement led to a walkout that was meticulously planned and incredibly limited, which pales in comparison to how powerful a 100 percent student organized walkout would have been. Much of the walkout felt disingenuous, as many students chose to walk out not due to passion for the cause, but because it served as a break from class with no repercussions from administration. Despite this, the overwhelming majority of students participating in the walkout were full of passion, delivering speeches that gave those in the crowd chills, and we must consider the fact that administration’s involvement made the protest powerful by enabling unification and participation. I believe that students at Jones still would have participated in the fight against gun violence had administration not guaranteed a consequence-free protest. But for many students, protesting in the face of repercussions that involve attendance, grades, and college admissions decisions is not an option.
Over the past few weeks, students have been remarking on the fact that those who refuse to be disobedient should not be involved in the movement at all, but this view ignores the fact that many minority students expressed prior to the walkout that they may be systemically and disproportionately punished, both by police and administration, and did not feel the ability to protest safely. Administration’s efforts to coordinate this walkout effectively allowed more students to participate and make their voices heard. Administration chose to echo our message for change and give us an even larger platform to make waves. In a sense, this is more powerful than if we had fought against administration and attempted to take matters into our own hands in a less organized, less effective manner.
This is a national movement to stand in solidarity with the Parkland students and create real change in gun control legislation. And the goal of this walkout remains effective whether or not administration is weighing in. Across the nation, these protests and walkouts have been premeditated, and the ultimate goal, whether or not administration is involved, is change and reform, not chaos. This is our protest whether or not administration is involved, and the focus is ultimately on the student voices, as we have taken ownership to represent what we believe and the change we want to see enacted. There is a power in unification that is particularly warranted in this turbulent time where our goal is to resist senseless violence, grieve for those we have lost, and to ultimately say, never again.