On Wednesday, March 14, the snow fell quietly onto Alumni Walk, quickly melting as it hit the pavement, or adhering together, creating frozen mounds. Amidst the storm, precisely at 10:00 a.m., members of the Bates community headed toward Commons to gather for the Bates College Walkout for Gun Control. The Walkout lasted seventeen minutes, “to represent one minute for each student that was killed at the Parkland shooting.”
Hosted by Bates Student Action and Bates Student Government, the event gave Bates students an opportunity to rally together and share their thoughts on the school shooting epidemic. Students held signs that stated “enough is enough,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “our movement is intersectional.”
As people arrived, Maddy Smith ’20 shared some opening remarks. “This is not the first time that people have rallied around gun violence in this country,” explained Smith, “this is an issue that Black Lives Matter has been fighting for so long.”
Most of the students that gave speeches highlighted the frequency of mass shootings in the United States. According to statistics provided by Everytown for Gun Safety, eighteen school shootings have already taken place during this year alone. “The point is to not constantly talk about the shootings after they happen, but to prevent the next one from occurring,” stated student body president Walter Washington ’19.
Additionally, speeches touched on the power that members of the Bates community have in resisting the NRA and Congressional silence concerning gun regulation laws. Washington urged attendees “to understand that, while we still cannot believe in the White House,” and members of Congress, we can “believe in each other.” “Keep resisting; do not stop talking about this moment; do not stop doing everything within your power to resist against the government.”
In the spirit of substantial resistance, the organizers of the Walkout passed around petitions demanding common sense gun control to be given to U.S. Senator Susan Collins. Students had the opportunity to sign both during the event and at tables outside Commons later that day. Beyond the petitions, Julia Panepinto ’20 asked students to “remember that you have the power to make this change happen, and that what you do today has to translate into the future.”
Both Eliza Roberts ’19 and Muskan Verma ’21 expressed their frustration concerning access to semi-automatic rifles in the United States. “It is ridiculous to me that guns are available here in Walmart where you go to buy candy and cola,” stated Verma. “We are not trying to take away all your guns,” clarified Roberts, “but… the only point to [semi-automatic rifles] is to cause mass harm.” Referencing the valiant efforts of the Parkland teens, Roberts explained “they just want some regulation, they just want to feel safe going back to Parkland… You want to feel safe in your school.”
Verma also spoke about the upcoming March for Our Lives in Portland, ME. In conjunction with the march in Washington D.C., marchers in Portland are demanding gun regulations, background checks, bans on assault rifles, and measures to increase school security. The event will take place on March 24, and begin in Congress Square Park in Portland. Verma urged all students to attend the March to the best of their abilities. “This is something that matters… and no matter how busy you are, lives really, really, really matter.”
The Walkout ended with a moment of silence honoring the lives lost in the Parkland shooting and the lives of all Americans “killed by senseless gun violence,” notes Panepinto.