Roughly 60 students stood in the snowy academic spine to join protesters nationwide for the National School Walkout on Wednesday, one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The protest lasted for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed in the shooting. Students shared a minute of silence for those who lost their lives.
The President of the UB American Constitution Society Alana Bernhardt stood before the protesters and asked them to take action to support stricter gun legislation. Bernhardt said the protest is to start a conversation about gun control on campus.
“Today we’re trying to get the word out. Enough is enough,” Bernhardt said. “I want to make some change at UB and make sure our students' voices are heard.”
The students protesting were relatively quiet in the freezing temperatures, but a few held signs.
Allie Porcello, a freshman English major, said she came to the walkout to support the Parkland students and expected to see more people participating.
“This went under my estimate. I thought more people were going to [come out],” Porcello said. “I thought it was going to be filled.”
The Graduate Student Association and Faculty Senate both recently passed a resolution to support current and prospective students who wish to participate in anti-gun violence protests. UB released a statement saying it will not rescind admissions to prospective students for participating in non-violent gun protests.
GSA President Tanja Aho emailed The Spectrum to voice GSA’s support of the protest. She called for an increase of mental health counseling and an expansion of programs that help students understand “violence enacted by white [cisgender] men” who have access to weapons.
“We do not support an increased militarization of our campus, nor do we believe that the presence of more guns on campus will increase anybody's safety,” Aho said.
Director of Outdoor Pursuits Russell Crispell said he is concerned about school shootings because he has been an educator all his life.
“I still teach here at UB, and the last thing that I would want to see is any more violence,” Crispell said. “Our students, they can lead this uprising and do it in a sensible, responsible way to maybe teach our government officials the way that they should be leading.”
Crispell said he worries about gun violence at UB because it is a public institution that anyone can walk into.
“It ultimately becomes the responsibility of each individual being aware of their surroundings, paying attention to what’s going on, listening and in the case of any possible problem, reporting it,” Crispell said
The National School Walkout served as a prelude to the larger March For Our Lives protest in Washington, D.C. on March 24. More than 730 similar protests are scheduled to happen on the same day, according to the group’s website.
Buffalo’s March for Our Lives demonstration is scheduled for Saturday, March 24 at 65 Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo.
Maddy Fowler contributed reporting to this story.
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