Hundreds of Georgetown University students, faculty and community members gathered in front of Healy Hall at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, calling for gun violence prevention in the aftermath of last month’s shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Exactly one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead and 17 injured, Georgetown students marched out of their classes to advocate for legislation promoting school safety and gun violence prevention. Georgetown’s walkout was one of 3,136 student-organized marches across the country, according to EMPOWER, the group behind the national school walkout and the organizing group of the national Women’s March.
University President John J. DeGioia joined Georgetown community members at the protest, where he addressed the crowd outside Healy. DeGioia called for a collaborative effort from the crowd to inspire action against gun violence.
No student should live in fear of gun violence. Our first consideration must be to care for each other,” DeGioia said. “There is a conviction that we share as members of this community; a belief that there is a good we can achieve together. This is a moment that demands good in us.”
Madison Thomas (COL ’19), an organizer of the event, estimated about 500 people participated in the 17-minute walkout to show their support for not only survivors of the Parkland shooting, but for all victims of gun violence.
Zach Fagan (NHS ’21) also addressed the crowd, speaking about his cousin, Victoria Soto, who lost her life in the Sandy Hook shooting almost five years ago. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred Dec. 14, 2012 in Newton, Conn., leaving 20 children and six staff members dead.
“Since December 14, my story has also become the story of thousands upon thousands of families in this county, whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence,” Fagan said. “I’m speaking out along with all of you and students throughout the country today so that no family ever has to go through what my family and so many others have experienced.”
Like Fagan, walkout organizer Emma Vahey (COL ’20) also has a personal connection to gun violence prevention because of her high school’s proximity to Sandy Hook.
“I see the real policy action that can be taken, and I think that young people are particularly powerful because we can and will vote legislators out,” Vahey said to the crowds.
Mass shootings only constitute 2 percent of gun deaths, according to Vahey. She said the main goal of protests like these national walkouts should be focused on combatting general gun policy reform as opposed to just mass shootings.
The protesters observed three minutes of silence to honor victims and reflect the exact time the active shooter was in the halls and classrooms of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. At the end of the 17 minutes, many Georgetown protesters continued to march to the National Mall, joining legislators and members of the wider Washington, D.C. community.
Thomas read the names of young people who have been affected by gun violence in the District to demonstrate the local implications of shootings.
The crowd heard calls for gun control measures to prevent future tragedies and was encouraged to vote out legislators who refuse to pass gun control measures.
Gun control advocate Sarah Clements (COL ’18) said Georgetown’s show of solidarity was a small part of a nationwide groundswell for gun control reforms in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.
“Thousands and thousands of schools are participating in this event around the country,” Clements said to the crowd. “We are demanding change from our leaders and politicians.”
Clements expressed her hopes for future advocacy efforts regarding gun control, in an interview with The Hoya after the event’s conclusion.
“It moved really quickly and it’s been a really great chance to get the community together and I’m glad a few hundred students came out today,” Clements said. “People have been reaching out and saying that they want to do more. Hopefully we’ll have a student organization soon of people who are working on this issue nonstop.”
Director for Hindu Life Bramachari Sharan was one of the many faculty members who participated in the walkout.
“The most sacred thing on this planet is human life, and it gets more troublesome when you think that younger and younger human life are falling victim to the carelessness and callousness of those who we put in charge,” Sharan said in an interview with The Hoya. “I’m here to show my solidarity with all the students and to remember all those who have passed because of this senselessness.”
Many student groups were present at the march, including both Georgetown University College Democrats and Georgetown University College Republicans, Hindu Students Association, Jewish Student Association and Students of Georgetown, Inc.
The Corp closed its on-campus shops and storefronts for 17 minutes to support the walkout.
“The Corp was founded to protect students’ rights, and every student has a right to an education free from fear and violence,” Corp CEO Alex Gong (SFS ’20) wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We closed for 17 minutes today to stand with our peers around the country working to ensure that we feel safe in our places of learning. All of us made our voices heard today.”
Jack Thorman (COL ’19), a walkout organizer, said he hopes the action does not stop here.
“I just hope that people take this as a starting point,” Thorman said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is not the end; it was beautiful to have everyone here, but we want people to show up at the march. We are restarting a club on campus to end gun violence and I hope people keep showing up.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that organizer Claire Goldberg (COL ’19) read the names of District residents affected by gun violence. Madison Thomas (COL ’19) read the names.