FRAMINGHAM – Yesterday, more than 1,000 Framingham High students participated in a walkout to advocate for stricter gun laws across the nation and to demand the violence in America’s schools end.
The goal – “never again” should there be a shooting in a school.
“We are part of this Columbine generation,” said organizer Julia Long. She said that many in the senior class were born in 1999, the year 13 students, and 20 others were wounded in a school shooting at a Colorado high school. “We have all grown up surrounded by this violence.”
“This is one of the most important things, we have done as a school,” said one of the organizers Catherine Turner. “We are finally standing up to gun violence and saying never again.”
“We are also here because we want change. We want to fix this problem, that affects us, and our people; and we can,” said Long.
“I know you guys. I know Framingham. The one thing that people always say about us, is that we are so incredibly diverse, and that there is so much diversity in that school,” said Long, a member of the Class of 2018. “But I believe if there is one thing, that united us all, that bridges the gap that comes with diversity, that we don’t sit back and let other people make decisions for us, when it is our lives on the line.”
More than 1,000 students participated in the walkout Wednesday, March 21 – 5 weeks after the killing of 17 students at a high school in Florida. Framingham High was to have participated in a national walkout day on March 14, but a nor’easter delayed the protest a week.
The event included a moment of silence for those killed at the Florida high school on February 14.
Organizers are also encouraged Framingham High students to register to vote.
There were also poetry readings and advocacy for support for bills pending at the Massachusetts State House.
“I am so incredibly proud of the people who braved the cold with us. It was such a powerful moment and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget it,” said Long.
“Seeing all of the students from Framingham was just absolutely surreal. This walkout could not have happened without their continuing support and I’m so grateful to come from an amazing school like Framingham,” said Turner. “This walkout hopefully showed students that they are not alone and that even if they feel discouraged now, they can actively make change in their country. The walkout was truly an event that I don’t think any of us will ever forget.”
But not everyone at the school supported the walkout.
Framingham High senior Aaron Shapiro was one of about 500 students who chose to stay inside the school.
“I respect my peers’ decision to advocate for themselves and stand up for what they believe in. Regardless, I did not take part in the walkout for two reasons,” said the Class of 2018 student. “The first reason is because I disagree with the message that was being spread at the walkout. In my opinion, the 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right that is the backbone to American democracy. I agree that certain weapons do not belong in the hands of citizens, and I do believe that background checks are necessary to prevent irresponsible people from owning guns. But a handful of laws already exist to assure that only a certain range of weapons belong in the right hands, and using a tragedy to fuel a political argument to me seems unfair. Yes, guns are part of the school safety argument, but in reality mental health affects millions of more teens than gun violence. And if our student body really cares about gun violence, they should be walking out every day, considering hundreds of teens and adults pass away due to gun violence in inner cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, and D.C.. (at a much higher rate than victims of school shootings).”
“Second, I think walking out of school during school hours with no consequences doesn’t accomplish the goal of the organizers,” said Shapiro. “The point of civil disobedience is that you peacefully disrupt everyday business in a way that attracts attention to your cause. If the school doesn’t hand out tardies for students missing class, and if a majority of the school, including staff, just agrees with the basis of having a walkout, it’s not really a walkout. It’s a social gathering meant for like-minded people to display their like-minded ideas. No members or Congress were there at the walkout. No one wrote letters to members of Congress. If the point is to push for change through law reform you have to get lawmakers involved, or else you’re just preaching an argument without getting any change done.”
Many City and school officials attended the walkout yesterday morning, including Framingham Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay, Framingham High Principal Carolyn Banach, Mayor Yvonne Spicer, Rep. Jack Lewis, Rep. Carmine Gentile, and several City Councilors and School Committee members. The only speaker were the students.
“My heart was jumping out of my chest with how much love I felt for all those students in that moment. They really embodied everything I love about the Framingham community,” said Long.
Long, Snow, and Turner, all who are taking or have completed the Government AP class at Framingham High, are planning next steps, including participating in the March on March 24.
In the mean time, Long is leading her church’s youth group in the March she plans to “continue pushing for legislation and advocating for gun legislation.”
Massachusetts as one of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Sen. Markey recently filed legislation in Washington DC, to make the nation’s laws as tough as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Editor’s Note: Originally posted at 2 a.m. Last updated with videos.
Photos by Susan Petroni/Petroni Media Company ©2018. All Rights Reserved.