Walkout planned in solidarity with victims of school gun violence

Amnesty International has invited the W&L community to participate in a local observance of a nationwide activism event

Lily Horsley, News Writer

Washington and Lee University’s chapter of Amnesty International will host a walkout on Wednesday on the one-month anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The event, which encourages students and school employees to leave class in recognition of gun violence and in support of  responsive legislative action, is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. on the university’s historic Colonnade.

The event is part of a larger plan called the National School Walkout, which is encouraging schools across the country to host the same event at the same day and time as a show of unity.

Iman Messado, ‘19, said Amnesty International decided to host the walkout because the club felt a responsibility to promote human rights on campus.

“In the past, [Washington and Lee] has prided itself on following tradition, which unfortunately usually translates to ignoring current events and abstaining from taking a stance on controversial issues,” Messado said. “This walkout means that [the university] is joining the national conversation.”

There will be a moment of silence for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in last month’s shooting. Participants will also have the opportunity to write letters to their respective state representatives concerning future gun laws.

Seth Cantey, assistant professor of politics and Amnesty International’s faculty advisor, said he is proud of the students in Amnesty International, who look to bring awareness of national matters to Lexington.

“These are people who are saying there is no place too small to stand up and have a discussion about these important issues,” Cantey said.

Cantey said the moment of silence is a serious statement.

“It will be interesting to see how solemn the moment is,” Cantey said. “What it will do for sure is focus people’s minds.”

Students across the nation have planned similar walkouts on the same date to protest gun violence.

Survivors of the shooting have advocated for stricter gun laws, travelling as far as the White House to speak with President Donald Trump on the issue.

Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature passed aggressive gun legislation last week, banning the sale or possession of bump stocks, raising the minimum age to purchase all guns from 18 to 21 and allowing some teachers and school staff members to be armed.

Rick Scott, the state’s Republican governor, broke with the NRA and signed the bill on March 9.