On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, Penn students participated in a nationwide classroom walkout movement in protest of ongoing gun violence, mass shootings, and current gun laws.
A group of nine College freshmen organized the April 20 event, which was held on College Green. The walkout started at noon with a moment of silence led by University Lutheran Church pastor Fritz Fowler. The brief moment was followed by several speeches and opportunities for students to sign petitions, write letters to congressmen, and register for voting.
Penn students have participated in classroom walkouts throughout this semester. On Feb. 22, over 150 students stood on Locust Walk and held signs to show support for the victims of mass shootings.
The day of the National School Walkout, established on March 14 in honor of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, over 30 Penn Law students and 150 employees of the Wistar Institute participated in walkouts.
Organizer and College freshman Rachel Steinig emphasized that gun violence is an issue that extends past school shootings to include issues of police brutality and domestic violence as well.
Co-organizer and College freshman Simran Chand said the group intentionally organized the event as nonpartisan so that anyone could join. While members of the group had first gotten to know each other through Penn Democrats, they did not want to be affiliated with any political organization.
“We’re not viewing this as a partisan issue," Chand said. "It’s a human issue. People are dying on the streets. It’s not about who’s in office. It’s not about what one party believes, what the other party believes. It’s about keeping our citizens safe and respecting the opinions of the constituents.”
College freshman Sabrina Ochoa, who was a part of the walkout, said people need to keep up the conversation surrounding gun control and not only consider its importance "every time some senseless act of violence happens and dies down like a week or so later.”
At the end of the hour, the group of organizers announced students could go to a table to register to vote and sign petitions advocating for gun control reform. The students also handed out flyers with contact information of Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia).
“I am thinking and I am hoping that the momentum on common sense gun reform is, you know, getting stronger and stronger," College freshman Sam Kaufmann said following the event. "It’s really going to start to matter in the 2018 election and beyond.”
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