Several hundred students and faculty gathered at the Silent Tree this morning for the UCSD Walkout for Gun Violence Prevention. The demonstration was part of a larger movement at schools across the country to demand stronger gun control laws after a 19-year-old white male used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to commit mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. Scheduled from 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m., the event was intended to be 17 minutes in duration to represent the 17 lives lost in the shooting.
A banner was placed in front of the Silent Tree that read “Today … 96 Americans will die from gun violence. [Seven] of them will be children. This month there will be 50 women shot [and] killed by intimate partners. This year there will be … 35,141 deaths from gun violence.”
Eden Allegreti, a Thurgood Marshall College freshman who organized the event along with Sixth College freshman Emma Potter, explained to the UCSD Guardian that the event was planned to inspire involvement in gun violence prevention on campus.
“I think we realized how widespread this issue is and how UC San Diego hasn’t really taken the action that we should as students to end gun violence,” Allegreti said. “We were hoping to do that with this walkout and start that much-needed dialogue.”
Although the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was the 18th instance in which a gun was fired on a school campus in 2018, Allegretti stated that she and Potter chose to take action today specifically because it would allow UCSD to participate in a larger movement.
“We did it [today] because nationwide we’ve been seeing protests because the Women’s March organization called for the nationwide walkout of students,” Allegreti said. “We decided to do it in coordination with that because the students at Parkland especially are the ones that are heading up this movement.”
The event opened with a speech by Potter, followed by Wendy Wheatcroft from Moms Demand Action.
During her remarks, Potter emphasized the statistic that 50 women per month fall victim to gun violence as a result of domestic abuse and recounted her sister’s own struggles with an abuser.
“On numerous occasions, my sister’s life was threatened by a man who should not, but did, have access to a gun,” Potter said. “He would hold the gun as a tool of manipulation, working her to his will.”
Wheatcroft delivered a powerful rally cry for students to participate in with the gun control movement and fight back against pro-gun policymakers.
“This is cruelty specific to you,” Wheatcroft stated, addressing the students in attendance. “No generation before you has faced anything like this and neither have your parents.”
Wheatcroft went on to condemn those in positions of power who support loose gun laws.
“There are two kinds of evil,” Wheatcroft declared. “There is the visible evil. The kind that you see on the news. The kind that exists in the shooter like Parkland’s shooter. The kind of evil that is sparked by illness, pain, circumstance, or hopelessness. We’re here today to talk about a different kind of evil. A behind-the-scenes kind of evil. Not the evil that led the shooter to pull the trigger, but the evil that put a weapon of war in his hands. That kind of evil is harder to see because it hides behind fancy suits and college degrees and good arguments and slick smiles and fake patriotism.
Encouraging attendees to view gun violence intersectionally, Aerimique, the director of Generation Justice, then took the microphone to discuss the need to have conversations “around race, around religion, around sexual orientation, around gender, and around age.”
“Understand that every time a white male shoots a predominantly white school, they humanize and justify the actions of the perpetrator,” Aerimique explained, highlighting a common contradiction in the coverage of school shootings. “Understand that black and brown youth in students and schools of color get criminalized and harsh discipline policies that lead to the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Kruti Patel, a Marshall College freshman, told the Guardian that she participated in the walkout after being inspired by her Dimensions of Culture coursework.
“[In DOC], we were talking about the different injustices that happen in due to gun violence and other things,” Patel stated.
The event was closed out by a speech from Shelby, a University of San Diego student whose elementary and high schools in Jacksonville, Florida experienced shootings on their campuses, final remarks from Allegreti, and a performance of the song “Rise Up.”
“I’ve been silent for too long. I’ve done nothing for too long,” Shelby said. “Our generation has a lot of work to do.”