Why I walked out against gun violence

Daisy Tichenor

Daisy Tichenor '18 writes about organizing Exeter's student-led rally for gun reform and victims of violence.

April 23, 2018

On Friday, April 20, hundreds of Exeter students joined students from across America in staging a walkout on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting to draw attention to gun violence. Few if any of the students were born on that day in 1999 when a dozen people were shot to death inside a Colorado high school, a crime that shocked the nation and touched off a national debate over gun reform. Nineteen years later — and with as many as 200 school shootings having occurred since — the debate continues. 

We asked walkout organizer Daisy Tichenor ’18 to write about her experience planning the event, the message she and her fellow organizers hoped to convey and her feelings about how that message was received. 

 

At the very end of the walkout, as I was about to end the moment of silence, I looked around the crowd of people in front of me. They stood, all with their heads bowed, silently. But there was so much power in them. That moment filled me with pride for the Exeter community, where students have the power, opportunity and ability to organize such an incredible event. 

When Auden Barbour ’18 and I began planning the walkout, it was important to us to find the voices to speak for the movement. We thought about which speakers would be the most impactful, how to highlight all the nuance of the issue of gun violence. We’d heard State Rep. Renny Cushing speak at the March for Our Lives in Portsmouth, and when we reached out, he was eager to help. His presence not only represented lawmakers who are actually making change, but as he is related to victims of gun violence, the heart of the issue. These victims are people, not numbers. 

Something we were very aware of while organizing was the massive difference in the way this movement is treated by the media versus the way Black Lives Matter was treated. We made it a goal early on to emphasize our support of both movements. In Nasa’s (Chinasa Mbanugo ’19) speech, she made the point beautifully, “we still must work together to reach our common goal, because we do have a common goal.”

I think Auden and I would have liked for the walkout to feel more spontaneous — a hive mind joining together for a cause. But in order to get the event organized and publicized, it had to become more planned. After the walkout, many students continued the protest until 2:50 p.m., when many walkouts ended across the country. I was so happy to see this coming together of loud, angry, passionate voices. Although the two events were very different, I think together they created a powerful message. 

Some people have been calling the event “school-sanctioned.” I suppose it was in that the school didn’t push against it, but in reality, it was organized and run by students. We gave the information to faculty and let the administration’s actions be their prerogative. The administration’s not opposing the walkout doesn’t mean we will stop pushing for them to evaluate investments in the gun industry. At the end of the day, the event was student-run, student-organized and carried out by the students. The administration chose to support the event of their own accord, and we didn't feel the need to reject support for a cause that affects every single member of this community — whether student, faculty or staff.

At the end of the day, in whatever way members of the community protested — taking a moment of silence in front of the Academy Building or making their voices heard in front of Jeremiah Smith Hall — we were all fighting for the same cause: an end to gun violence. There’s so much to be done for this movement, and the more people who find different ways of speaking out for the cause, the better. This is going to be a long fight, but one that our generation is in for the long haul.

Daisy Tichenor is a senior from Glencoe, Illinois. 
 


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