Using their voices to incite national change on a grassroots level, hundreds of students from Blake joined thousands across the DMV last Thursday in walking out of class to protest in front of the White House and Capitol Hill for the passage of stricter gun control legislation.
Similar to last year’s March 14 protest, last Thursday’s walkout was led by returning student activist, senior Ruby Brayton and her sophomore partner, newcomer Skylar Mansfield. Brayton is one of the original co-founders of MoCo for Change, the student-led advocacy group that facilitated the planning of last year’s walkout along with this year’s.
Last year’s protest advocated for specific change regarding gun-laws, such as restrictions on bump stocks. The firearm accessory did undergo changes last year after federal regulations banned them.
Brayton expresses how this year’s protest is no different in its call for change in legislation—particularly for the passage of the US Senate’s Background Check Expansion Act, or S.42. “We’re really trying to push for Congress to pass [it],” she says. “This is a universal background checks bill that will help keep guns out of the hands of people who absolutely shouldn’t have them, and ultimately save lives.”
Amidst the countless emotive poster signs, outcries of injustice and the tremendous 3500+ student turnout that rocked Pennsylvania Avenue last Thursday, Mansfield, like many students, demonstrated a sense of hope for the power of the youth voice. “They cannot shut our voices out,” she says. “We millennials [sic] do have a voice and we want change in this country.”
At the rally in front of the Capitol, students heard from a plethora of speakers outraged and impacted by gun violence. Alongside the several U.S. senators and MoCo 4 Change representatives who spoke, survivors of gun violence stirred emotion and sparked inspiration for the thousands of students in attendance.
“I was inspired at seeing them be able to tell their stories because it’s traumatizing,” says sophomore Starr Nganga. “[Those] are life-changing event[s] and yet they’re still able to stand on stage and speak in front of all these kids, not knowing the reaction they’re about to get, all to fight for what they know is right.”
More than just a single day of protest, the March 14 demonstration strove to inspire student activists to continue their efforts in advocating for gun control measures in their own communities and holding their legislators accountable for how they vote on such issues.
“With the number of people that showed up to fight for our lives today, it’s very unlikely that [the issue] will just go unnoticed by the congressmen,” says senior Ta’Tyani Young. “They are being put on notice that if they don’t make any changes, they’re going to be voted out of office because we’re going to be the ones voting [next] year.”