At issue: The difficulty of creating a purposeful protest
Our take: Walkout participants are headed in the right direction
Over 200 Emerson students participated in a nationwide walkout on Wednesday morning to protest gun laws that allowed the United States to become the world leader in mass shootings. Thousands of students stood in solidarity with the victims of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.—but Wednesday’s event went beyond just solidarity.
It’s important to recognize the difference between just walking out and advocating for clear political action. Students from around the Boston area gathered on Boston Common, received advocacy training at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, then flooded the State House to lobby for a Massachusetts gun control bill. The bill would allow police to restrict firearm access to those labeled an “extreme risk.”
Students who stayed and spoke to legislators demonstrated the very notion of what it means to demand and promote action in government. Simply marching on streets to raise awareness, the predominant tactic of the March for Science and Women’s March, should not be the only step for seeking change.
The #Enough walkouts had a clear plan for the day that culminated with speaking to legislators at the State House. The goals of the protest were well-defined, and the event was promoted effectively so the majority of participants were familiar with the events of the day. There was even a contingency plan in the event Emerson cancelled classes for the snow day, so the second part of the protest would still occur.
Emerson students seem to have learned from critiques of larger movements like the Women’s March, which was rife with problems. While the Women’s March website presents a list of “unity principles” for their movement, at the time of the first march the idea was mostly to just show up without any clear demands for legislative action. It was often exclusive of trans women and nonbinary people in its slogans and infamous pussy hats. While the march was an incredible display of international unity, it didn’t bring about massive liberation or tangible change for women. By presenting specific calls for legal change and continuing to meet with state representatives, the leaders of Wednesday’s walkout are already showing progress in their advocacy.
Still, while Emerson students took a strong stand against gun violence yesterday, the #Enough movement is not without flaws. Some people portrayed the walkout exclusively as a memorial to those lost in Parkland, but that does not encompass the entirety of its intended purpose. Others tried to flip the message to one of treating people with kindness instead of the clear political statement the event was intended to make. This isn’t One Tree Hill—anti-bullying sentiments and sugarcoating the actual reasons behind tragedies will not prevent more lives lost. As a community, we must work to ensure our activism is as effective as possible.