Campus walkout calls for increased gun control

By SARAH Y. KIM | March 15, 2018

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COURTESY OF ROLLIN HU Alongside national school walkouts, Hopkins students gathered on Keyser Quad and marched to the Beach, calling for stricter gun control measures.

Over 100 Hopkins students, faculty and staff joined a walkout protesting gun violence on Wednesday morning. The demonstration was part of a national school walkout, in which thousands of students across the U.S. left their classrooms to participate. 

The walkout began at 10 a.m. and ended at 10:17 a.m. Each minute represented one of the 17 students killed in the mass school shooting on Feb. 14. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Stoneman Douglas) in Parkland, Fla.

Demonstrators held signs reading “never again” and “ballots not bullets,” as well as the names of those killed at Stoneman Douglas. 

Sophomore Class President Anthony Boutros, one of the organizers of the Hopkins walkout, opened with a speech on the front steps of Gilman Hall.

“We’re here today to mourn for the victims of Columbine to Parkland, from victims of suicide to mass shooting,” Boutros said. “We’re here today because activists and survivors are demanding that these atrocities never happen again. We are here today to rise with them because we demand ‘never again.’” 

After Boutros’ speech, sophomore Emily Franco read aloud the names and brief descriptions of all 17 victims. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Boutros explained that he and other organizers hoped that these tributes would make demonstrators feel closer to those directly affected by shooting. 

“These 17 people are no longer with us but they had such an influence on their communities and their families,” he said. “They could have done so much more had senseless gun violence not taken them away.”

Demonstrators proceeded to march to the Beach, chanting slogans such as “never again,” “no more guns,” “we will vote,” “disarm hate” and “enough is enough.” They then gathered in front of the Hopkins sign on North Charles Street. Several passersby honked their car horns in support. 

At the end of the walkout, Boutros urged U.S. citizens present to take a more active role in combating gun violence by voting in the 2018 midterm elections. 

“We need to call our legislatures, our elected officials. We need to vote,” he said. “Otherwise, all of this would sadly mean nothing.”

He recommended that Hopkins affiliates register on TurboVote, an online voting registration service that has partnered with the University. The service is designed to make voting easier for students and offers absentee ballots. 

According to Boutros, a single student group did not organize the event, though he and other Student Government Association (SGA) members were involved. Instead, he brought together Facebook friends whom he thought would be interested into a Messenger group. 

“I knew we needed to do something,” he said. “As soon as Parkland happened my heart was broken again. I have a six-year-old sister and to think that she is going to elementary school, to think that this could happen to her... it brought it home.” 

Sophomore Caroline West got involved in planning the walkout after a conversation she had with Boutros. 

“We wanted to do something big that would engage the campus community and the Baltimore community that would show our solidarity with the victims of Parkland and that quickly grew,” she said. 

To spread word of the walkout, organizers created a Facebook event page and distributed emails containing a template letter for students to send their professors. The letter asked professors to excuse students who missed class to participate in the walkout and encouraged them to participate as well. 

West was pleased with the turnout, noting that the walkout was held at a particularly busy time of the year for students. 

“We feel there comes a time where it’s necessary for us to put aside academic priorities for a moment and come together and show our solidarity,” she said. “It was awesome that there were a lot of people that felt that way and joined us.” 

SGA Executive Vice President AJ Tsang explained that the walkout was intentionally scheduled to take place at the same time as walkouts across the nation. SGA will also be sending a banner to Stoneman Douglas. 

Tsang said that organizers of the walkout will also be involved in the March For Our Lives at Washington, D.C. on March 24. 

“We wanted to... make sure that we were combining our efforts with that of the national events,” Tsang said. 

On Tuesday, SGA unanimously passed a resolution expressing its support for survivors of gun violence and gun control activists. The resolution calls upon the University to support affiliates who wish to engage in future walkouts and to show their support for undergraduate applicants who protest gun violence. 

The resolution contains a clause asking that the University “refuse to invest in any campus-safety initiative that would arm JHU affiliates, including faculty, staff, and any affiliate employed by the University security apparatus.” 

Tsang clarified that the clause was not written in response to the University pushing for a private police force. Instead, it was written after national legislators began calling for teachers to be armed last month.

Sophomore Madeleine Cuan left her shift at the Hopkins Lab for Child Development to participate in the walkout. 

“This has to stop, this can’t keep happening, and it’s time that we do something,” Cuan said. “It’s just really great to encourage people to vote and to make a change, and it’s really great to have a group of people that want to demonstrate it.” 

Former Senator from Maryland Barbara Mikulski, who has been a professor of public policy at Hopkins since 2017, was among several faculty members who participated in the walkout. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Mikulski explained that she attended the walkout to commemorate the lives of those lost in the Parkland shooting. 

“We support the incredible efforts and agenda of the Parkland students and hope to see either part or all of it passed and that their dream to be remembered as the last school shooting in America is realized,” she wrote. 

Mikulski commended student activists for being vocal about their support for gun control. 

“It is an uphill fight, but these students are leading the way,” she wrote. “We encourage students at Hopkins (and elsewhere) to not only participate in protests and marches — which are fantastic —, but to also flood their representatives’ social media, telephones, and inboxes with their thoughts and opinions — both of support and disagreement — so that their voices can be heard.”

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