Over 200 City College students, staff and faculty members walked out of their classrooms and offices at 10 a.m. to honor the victims of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The rain held off for the demonstrators who gathered in front of the Learning Resource Center. A 17-minute moment of silence was offered in memory of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. The demonstration marks exactly one month since the deadly incident.
According to The New York Times, City College is among hundreds of schools whose students and staff are pressuring congress for action on gun control.
Andi Hernandez, an administrative assistant in the advanced technology department at City College, heard about the walkout via social media and said she came to show support for all the shooting victims.
“I’m hoping to put pressure on the people who make decisions to see that we’re not gonna be quiet,” Hernandez said. “We need better gun control, not total gun control—better gun control.”
Student senator and communications major Alfonso Jimenez said he heard about the protest from the Clubs and Events Board on campus.
“I don’t understand why the school shootings are happening,” Jimenez said. “Not much is really being done even after the promotion (of gun control), only to backlash right when they start promoting it. I don’t feel like that’s very appropriate. And there seems to be somewhat of a pattern after it. Things right now are not OK. They’re not.”
Jimenez was one of several silent protesters who held paper signs reading “Education for Peace,” while others stood together in solidarity to show their support for the cause.
“It’s very easy,” Jimenez said. “You need to know this is happening. It’s happening everywhere, ya know? These are people’s children.”
Students who walked out of class during the protest may face academic consequences for class absence, according to college policy.
“Peaceful protests are not cause for disciplinary action in our student code of conduct,” said Los Rios district chancellor Brian King in an email directed to the district community. “As educational leaders, we do have a responsibility to help students understand that there could be academic implications if they choose to walk out of class.”
City College Public Information Officer Kaitlyn MacGregor said that decision is up to each teacher to mandate classroom attendance policies, but the decision to risk a possible violation remains with the individual student.
“As a district (Los Rios), we support everybody’s right to free speech,” MacGregor said.
According to MacGregor, City College is working to improve campus safety. Following the 2015 shooting on campus in which one person was killed, City College is actively trying to improve communication to students, staff and faculty.
“We have a new platform that allows us to communicate faster and more efficiently with students. In an instance like that (a shooting), fast communication is going to be important to letting people know that there is something going on on campus,” she said.
The mass notification system is hosted by RAVE Mobile Safety. In the event of an emergency, students, staff and faculty will receive timely notifications via text, email or phone call. The system would also deliver a pre-recorded voicemail to relay important information.
Safety precautions aside, some students still feel that the responsibility of this issue remains with lawmakers.
“I’m not saying anything bad about the walkout,” said communications major Cassidy Wilkins. “But there’s a lot of attention for a short-lived minute, and then no one really does anything about it or follows up with what Congress is actually doing about it—which is nothing. And that’s kind of the frustrating part, I guess. Because even with the numbers that happened here today and at all the schools in the United States, it still probably won’t be enough to change because we’ve seen that a lot in the past year.”
Wilkins stood together with her friend and fellow communications major, Chanie McCleary, to show their support for gun violence victims.
“It’s just unfair that we have to think about situations like this at school, or at a concert, or walking in a mall, or opening a package at your door,” Wilkins said. “It’s just everything right now.”
McCleary said she thinks many people aren’t aware of the importance of mental stability clearance and age restrictions before purchasing a gun.
“You don’t even have to be 21 to purchase a rifle or bump stocks, but you have to be 21 to purchase a pistol (handgun),” McCleary said. “That doesn’t really make sense at all. It’s confusing why it’s like that. I question everything; why is it set up this way?”
While AR-15s are banned in California, most states allow them to be purchased at 18. By contrast, handguns cannot be sold to minors under 21 by any federally licensed firearms dealer, according to the ATF website.
Wilkins and McCleary agreed that they haven’t seen enough change in the policies against gun control.
“It’s definitely a needless, senseless thing that happened to them (shooting victims), and I’m not really so much about the politics about guns or taking them away or giving people rights,” McCleary said. “It’s just sad that somebody having access to those rights is taking away from other people, like their lives.”
McCleary hopes the demonstration will spark more discussion around gun violence and gun control.
“Hopefully, people get a little more clarity and understand why so many people want gun control,” McCleary said. “And then, maybe, something can happen. Maybe something can change.”