After nearly 300 students gathered on the College Green on Wed., Feb. 22 as part of a nation-wide walk-out against gun violence, there was talk of gathering a bus to take ‘Berg students down to the March for Our Lives campaign in Washington.
Not much younger than the inhabitants of our own dorms, the 16-to-18-year-old student leaders of the march and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting have come under scrutiny for being just that — students.
“Florida kids will march on Washington to shame adult politicians,” bellowed Newsweek’s headline on the event. Bill O’Reilly, the host of “No Spin News,” tweeted that “The big question is: should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases?” Trolls across the internet have called these teenagers “crisis actors” and posted videos “discrediting” them. Google and YouTube have been doing their best to remove any such content, according to a New York Times article, where the platforms stated that the videos violate their recently altered anti-harassment and anti-bullying policy.
Historically speaking, though, students have led the nation in civil rights protests. Some of the largest milestones in the civil rights movements of the fifties were achieved by NAACP Youth group’s protests, including the Little Rock Nine and the integrations of schools and boycotts that pressured shop owners into creating equal job opportunities for black workers. One of the most documented student protests in the United States dates back to 1924, when black students at Fisk University walked out in protest against discriminatory disciplinary policies. Their actions caused the resignation of their college president.
Even here at Muhlenberg, students gathered in protest in response to Trump’s travel restrictions in 2017, and the 2014 acquittal of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown. In 2015, students fought a restrictive protest policy by, ironically, protesting. They plastered up copies of the lengthy forms filled out with the names of famous protests, including the Boston Tea Party, Stonewall Riots, Martin Luther’s 95 theses and more.
March for Our Lives’ greatest strength is its student involvement. And students have made history before and will make it again.
“We are going to be the kids that you read about in textbooks,” said Emma González, a senior at Parkland, at a gun control rally, “not because we are going to be another statistic about mass shootings in America but because … we are going to be the last mass shooting.”
About 13 percent of our student population at ‘Berg participated in the walkout. Those who came shared strong opinions, be it on gun control, on representations of mental health or our desensitization to these tragedies. Muhlenberg, through Dean Robert Springall, tweeted its support of incoming ‘Berg students’ efforts, and you can read more about this on page four.
There are plenty of ways to get active. Satellite marches are happening everywhere — on the same day as the Washington march, others are planned for Philadelphia and Lancaster. Or, for those who prefer to stay at home, calling representatives is always an option. Pennsylvania’s current senators are Robert Casey and Pat Toomey. Charlie Dent is our District’s House representative, and he has announced his retirement; midterm elections for his seat in the House of Representatives (among many others nationwide) will be on Nov. 6.
Now’s our chance to make history — let’s make sure Muhlenberg is on the right side of it.