Local students lie down to advocate for gun control

. March 23, 2018.
Pioneer High School junior Atticus Tanguay. Photo: Karen Smyte
Pioneer High School junior Atticus Tanguay. Photo: Karen Smyte

Honor. Educate. Act.

Sarah Lewis had clear goals for the “Die-in” protest against gun violence she spearheaded on March 3rd, at Ann Arbor’s downtown Liberty Plaza. Inspired by the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas student protest in D.C. after the shooting in their Parkland, Florida school February 14th, the Pioneer junior said she, “wanted to do something similar, and not only to have people lie down, but also to have opportunities for people to become engaged and take actions to make change.”

Vision achieved. Hundreds of students and local residents gathered under sunny skies for the event. In a moving tribute, attendees were invited to lie down on the ground for six minutes, the approximate amount of time of the Parkland shooting, while local students read the names of the 17 killed, the 15 others injured, and the 33 children and teen casualties resulting from shootings that occurred since the Parkland event.

Students lay down in Liberty Plaza. Photo: Karen Smyte

Students lay down in Liberty Plaza. Photo: Karen Smyte

Civic engagement the key to change

Before and after the “Die-in,” student speakers and local officials advocated for stricter gun regulations, and for all present to become engaged in civic life – both those of voting age and those not yet 18. As Meg Goldberg, a Pioneer junior and co-organizer of the event said, “Although this is a visual representation, we want people to take action because that is the way to really make change.” The League of Women Voters helped people register to vote, but as Lewis stated, “if you can’t register to vote, there are pamphlets with information on how to contact your local and national government and elected officials to make your voices heard.” Informational tables from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Washtenaw Youth Initiative and Michigan Coalition for the Prevention of Gun Violence dotted the plaza during the rally. In addition, Dr. Sonya Lewis was present representing the event host Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence.

In remarks before the “Die-in,” Pioneer junior Clara Nunez-Regueiro offered historical context to the event. “The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s was what propagated what we now know as the “sit-in” or the “lie-in” protest,” she said. “The Chicano Student Walkouts of the 1960’s were a factor in the now-iconic student walkout protest. The AIDS crisis of the 1980’s was what propagated what we know now as the “die-in” protest. Black Lives Matter has been avidly using the “die-in” protest since 2012 and beyond. The history books are bound to acknowledge the student gun control of the 2010’s, but we owe it to our predecessors to acknowledge we are but a part of the road others paved for us.”

Why should school be a dangerous place?

Liam Keating, a Skyline Senior, spoke about the juxtaposition between public opinion and congress. “While it’s important to make sure people are safe in schools and enact policies to do so,” he explained, “there are many people who think there are too many guns in the first place, that we shouldn’t be needing to put metal detectors and security guards at the front of schools. Why should school be a dangerous place? There needs to be policies enacted at a higher level that aren’t only about securing schools, but securing our country.”

Lewis stressed the event wasn’t about repealing the second amendment, but rather “making sure these weapons of war and mass killings are not getting into the hands of dangerous people.” What does she think won’t help? “Teachers with guns. That would be awful.”

Pioneer High School junior Josie Leydenfrost joined other students on Saturday March 3 at a student-led "die-in" Photo: Karen Smyte

Pioneer High School junior Josie Leydenfrost joined other students on Saturday March 3 at a student-led “die-in” Photo: Karen Smyte

Thoughts and prayers not enough

Nunez-Regueiro captured the energy and feel of the youth movement. “We are here today because we are finished with our leaders’ indifference to a problem that takes innocent lives every single day. We will not be silenced and we will never be placated with thoughts and prayers. We must hold those who are complicit in the facilitation of gun violence accountable. We are responsible for creating the change that we need to see in them.”

If Saturday’s rally is any indication, Ann Arbor’s youth are ready to help lead this change.

Washtenaw County high school students are organizing a school walkout and rally on March 14 as part of a national school walkout to protest gun violence in schools organized by those behind the Women’s March. The group is calling for students, teachers and parents to walk out of schools for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting to protest Congress’ inaction on gun regulations. “Enough: National School Walkout” is scheduled for 10am local time across the U.S. In addition, a local March For Our Lives is planned for March 24 as part of the larger national event. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.