Students across the country walked out of class Wednesday, March 14, one month after a school shooting at Marjorie Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 dead. The National Walk Out Day event, occurring at 10 a.m. across time zones, expressed solidarity with the victims and survivors, as well as pushed for increased gun control.
U-News heard from sophomore and sociology major Kristen Garcia about why she took part in the walkout and what changes she wants to see.
Q: How did you hear about National Walkout Day?
A: I first heard about walk out day in my History 101 class with Dr. Davis. A student in my class made an announcement that there was a nationwide walk out at 10 a.m. protesting gun violence. Dr. Davis said that it wasn’t mandatory, but that she wouldn’t start class until 10:17 a.m. when the walkout was over, and that whoever would like to go out into the quad was free to do so.
Q: What did National Walkout Day represent for you?
A: [It] represented my solidarity for the other people in my generation. If they can take a stand after everything they’ve been through, it’s the least I can do to not only show them that they’re not alone, but also to show older generations and lawmakers we are not a silent generation, we are not a selfish generation, and we want change.
Q: What inspired you to participate?
A: Honestly, it was the Majorie Stoneman Douglas students, who have literally become the faces of this gun regulation movement. They have worked harder than I’ve ever seen anyone work before to organize marches and speeches, especially only one month after the tragedy.
Q: What was it like walking out of class? What reactions did others have?
A: It was empowering to walk out of class. I know that it wasn’t seen by the world, or the state, or even by other UMKC students who weren’t in the quad, but it was a very personal triumph to stand up for what I believe. So many others in my class participated, and I’ve gotten mostly positive reactions from my friends and family. Some of my more conservative family members weren’t happy about national walkout day in general, because they excused it as kids just wanting to get out of class, but their opinions of our movements have no effect on me. I know what I stand for and what this movement stands for.
Q: Do you feel safe at UMKC?
A: I do feel safe at UMKC. I know the police are very close and there are plenty of emergency stations. Also, I never walk at night or in any other situations where I might not be safe, because I’m a vigilant person.
Q: What else have you done or what will you do in the future to combat gun violence?
A: I have signed some petitions through change.org, and hopefully I can go to larger, national rallies and just take any other opportunity that comes my way to help my voice and the voices of others around me be heard. I know this isn’t the end of the protests, and the movement is only going to pick up momentum.
Q: What action would you like to see taken? What is your ultimate goal as a protestor, student and citizen?
A: I want to see the violence stop and the deaths stop. I can’t even begin to imagine what surviving this horrible massacre must feel like, and what the people who have lost their loved ones must be going through. I hate that this is the new “normal,” and I want the death, the hate and the violence to stop. I’m tired of hearing people’s sympathies, but [them] not taking action. Our children are dying, are your guns really more important than human life?