Walkouts are a new breed of productive peaceful protest

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This past Wednesday, March 14, over 3,000 schools across the United States participated in protests in order to honor the lives lost in Parkland, Florida and demand action in the ongoing debate on gun control. These peaceful protests involved students showing solidarity by leaving their classrooms and walking out of schools, congregating in parking lots and on sidewalks to lean on each other for support and strength. Most protests were short, only lasting 17 minutes to honor the 17 students lost on Feb. 14, 2018 at Parkland High School.

Over the past five or so years, the issue of gun violence has risen to the forefront of American politics. There have been protests, filibusters, proposed bills and pleas for help from so many Americans to change the way our gun laws have allowed so many tragedies to occur, and yet there has been virtually no change at all in the way our government handles this issue. But still we persist, and as these recent protests have shown, those demanding action will not back down in this fight. But after so many years of trying and countless large-scale protests previously, why are these school walkouts gathering so much attention? What message are they sending that has not already been sent? How are they different?

While there have been many protests to demand gun law reforms prior to the events on March 14, there are some things that set these walkouts apart from the rest. For one, these protests were extremely widespread, not concentrated in a few areas or regions. Wednesday’s walkouts occurred in over 3,000 schools nationwide, with students participating in various states from coast to coast. “Lots of other student movements, such as Black Lives Matter or the Day Without Immigrants in 2006, were more localized, and hit many key cities but didn’t resonate on the national level in the way that these walkouts have.”  Unlike peaceful protests on other issues, the fact that this event reached so many people across the country is unique and helps strengthen the impact of the message.

Another thing that separates this demonstration from others is how the protesters were mainly students. While many teenagers and young adults have participated in other rallies and calls to action in the past, this was one of the first events to not be spearheaded by adults. The events last Wednesday were organized by individuals from the group Youth Empower, and participants ranged in age from 14 to 23. Considering the age of the activists, the fact that headlines worldwide have been talking about the walkouts is a huge success for these students, and for the gun control cause in general. The surprise that many feel in learning the age of these activists has definitely helped to gain more attention toward the demonstration and the issue in general.

Unfortunately, the age of the activists here has also been recognized as a potential downfall. While it is amazing that these students have gained so much momentum and publicity from the display, many are pointing out that they still need adults behind them to make a change. While this seems unfair, it is still true that having adults to back up the students is necessary, and thus the age of students could be seen as a drawback as well. Either way, having younger generations be the main voice in this protest has definitely set it apart from other movements that have recently made headlines.

Of course, the walkouts do have some things in common with other protests, specifically their ability to pique controversy. While there obviously must be controversy to bring reason for a protest in the first place, this protest has been especially interesting as it has revealed controversy between both anti and pro-gun control supporters, as well as between the students participating and the administration of schools where the protests took place. As gun control has already been a controversial and very widespread topic recently, it is unsurprising that these actions added fuel to an already burning fire. However, the controversy between schools and students is interesting, mainly in that some schools allowed, and even encouraged, the walkouts, while others threatened their students. This aspect of the walkouts has also pushed the demonstrations into the spotlight more than they were previously

The walkouts that took place on March 14 are clearly a new breed of protest that has been making headlines across the world. While it is still unclear whether or not the walkouts will have any more of an effect than previous protests have had, it is obvious that they have helped the issue of gun control remain at the forefront of people’s minds. While the wait continues for action in the ongoing fight for stronger gun laws, it is encouraging to know that powerful, strong-willed students are helping to lead the way for a safer future for generations to come.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.

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