Students walkout to honor those killed in Parkland

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March 16, 2018

Hundreds of Brandeis students gathered around Chapels Pond at noon Wednesday to stand in solidarity with victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to express support for gun control reform.

Attendees filed in along a narrow path and spread out around the heart-shaped pond. The crowd held a 17-minute moment of silence to signify the 17 lives lost in Parkland, FL exactly one month prior. At the start of each minute, Josh Moll ’19 read the name of a victim.

The newly formed group, Brandeis Never Again, organized this event as part of the National School Walkout, joining thousands of students across the country who walked out of class to demand legislative action on gun control.

Brandeis Never Again began with two students, Renee Korgood ’20, and Sagie Tvizer ’19, who began contacting students at Brandeis, as well as the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, about possible actions to support gun control reform. The organization now has 12 main members with a listserv of about 40 people, according to Korgood, and is planning five upcoming events to support gun control and the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

National walkouts were scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 14, but Tuesday night, Brandeis announced that there would be a delayed opening at 11 a.m. the next day due to snow. Student organizers conferred with each other and decided to push back the time, both for safety reasons and to maximize the number of people on campus.

“We thought that while it would be powerful to participate in the national movement, it would likely be more powerful if we could show that many, many members of the Brandeis community were as committed to this as we were,” said Korgood.

Students from Brandeis Never Again were in contact with Provost Lisa Lynch about their plans. On March 8, Lynch emailed the faculty informing them of the walkout and providing contact information for Brandeis Never Again. There was no official university guidance on how professors should address students who miss class for the event, though student organizers reached out to many Brandeis department heads and encouraged them to be lenient.

Moll, who read the names at the walkout, is from Parkland. His brother, Jake, attends the Parkland high school and was in a building next to where the shooting occured. Because of his experience, Moll has become more involved in pressing for gun control reform, and has focused on organizing the walkout and Brandeis’ participation in “March for Our Lives” on March 24.

“I think several times a day, every day … what it would have been like if it was me who had to be flying to Florida to go bury my relative,” Moll said. “And I think that it’s important that as a country, regardless of your Republican, Democratic standing, anything—that as a country you have to come together to honor these people.”

“I would want someone to do it for me,” he continued. “This country is a community, as a community we have to stand with these people and let them know that they’re not alone and that the world has not just forgotten what happened to their family member … You have to keep the conversation alive.”

Moll will bring the poster that students signed during the walk-out back to Parkland when he returns for spring break, and it will hang inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas. At the walk-out, Moll concluded by saying, “Only together can we prevent a tragedy like this from happening again … Today we stand in solidarity with Parkland, never again.” Students then chanted “never again,” before filing out of Chapels Pond.

Brandeis Never Again has planned a series of upcoming events to support gun control reform. First, they are hosting a discussion on activism with Ruth Nemzoff, a scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, which was rescheduled for Monday, March 19 at 7 p.m. due to the snow storm.

The group will also be hosting tabling sessions in the SCC where students can call or write to their representatives. The table will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from March 19 through 23.

There will be a “Moment of Loudness” at the Light of Reason on Wednesday, March 21 which Korgood is working to coordinate. The Moment of Loudness is expected to feature student and faculty performances to contrast the moment of silence held Wednesday.

“A moment of silence is you honor them and you remember them and you stand in solidarity,” Korgood said. “A moment of loudness is you stand up and you speak out for what you believe in.” The Moment of Loudness is also set for the same day as Brandeis’ first active shooter training, which will test the university’s emergency preparedness by simulating an active shooter situation in the library.

This was an intentional choice of date, said Moll. “Students can’t go into the library to continue being educated for a day because we have to train our [university] on how they’re going to apprehend someone running through our school shooting people with an assault rifle … So yes, I think it is intentional that they are close to each other,” Moll said.

Moll explained he wasn’t pointing blame at the university. “Until policy changes, it’s very important that our [university] knows how to cope with and deal with an active shooter situation … It could happen here as much as anywhere else. But I do think that we’re using that to show that it’s prevalent, that it’s important to keep protesting to prevent an active shooter situation from reoccurring,” he said.

Additionally, Brandeis Never Again is working to organize shuttle transport to the March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24. Organizers are trying to arrange additional buses from campus to downtown Boston for the rally as well as shuttles to the Riverside T-station. There will be 743 events worldwide that day, according to the March For Our Lives website. Finally, the group is also organizing another walkout and peaceful rally for April 20, the 19th anniversary of Columbine, but there are not many details yet.

A member of Brandeis Never Again, Amanda Kahn ’20, spoke about the need for change in the wake of Parkland. Kahn is from Newtown, CT, where, in 2012, a gunman killed 27 people, most of them first-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary.

“We haven’t seen change in the five years since then,” said Khan, but she argued this time felt different. “It feels different because the students [from Parkland] are speaking out the way they are, and it seems like it’s really going to make a change,” she said.

With other past shootings, Korgood said, “people were like ‘you can’t act on this, you can’t politicize this,’ and then the first thing Parkland students said after was, ‘politicize this…make change out of this.’”

In the days following the shooting, Parkland students spoke out on news networks, marched to the statehouse in Tallahassee and confronted Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and an NRA representative at a CNN town hall. The national movement that resulted from the shooting in Parkland, FL has spread to cities across the United States, and is primarily fueled by high schoolers.

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