Western Michigan University joined schools nationwide who participated in school walkouts to show support of gun control on March 14.
The walk out lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. WMU students and Kalamazoo residents gathered around the Miller fountain voicing frustrations with the current gun laws and support for youth.
Marshall Kilgore, a freshman studying elementary education, says protecting young people was the main goal of the walk out.
“As a future educator, I say we must protect our youth at all costs,” Kilgore said. “My fellow WMU students and I have been to primary and secondary school, and now we’re here in college. We’ve been through all the hoops and we know how difficult student life can be.”
Kilgore says other problems students face, should be our top priority.
“There are students without food, shelter or clothes on their backs,” Kilgore said. “The last thing they should be worrying about is safety.”
The participants included WMU professors, sixth district congressional candidate Aida Gray, kalamazoo locals and students. A majority of the attendees were Western Students, but the crowd was small.
“I am proud of the turnout. Even if 5 people showed up, I’d still be proud. Waves start as small movements, vibrations really. We can start a wave of emotion, empathy and love with just a few voices,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore spoke to the crowd about these beliefs, as did Jessica Graber, a second-year public health student.
“We may be young. But that doesn't matter. We can make a difference,” Graber said to the crowd. “We’ve had enough.”
English professor Jonathan Bush also spoke to the crowd. Bush is an army veteran who continues to serve in the reserves. He is well-versed in gun culture; however, he told the crowd he believes there is no reason a civilian needs certain assault weapons that are currently under fire by those that oppose the NRA.
“There are specialized weapons for specialized situations that shouldn't be in the hands of public.”
Bush says he was reluctant to be a figure at the walk out, but was moved to speak anyways by what he saw.
“Our country needs to rethink what we are and what we care about.” He says he was hoping to see young people attend the walk out, but hopes that it's a starting point for more action.
“Im proud of the young people in America. In fact, I’m a little sheepish that I spoke because this a youth movement. It shouldn't be from us adults. We already messed it up.”
The walkout held at Western was one of many held all over Michigan at high schools. Many on social media have spoken against walks outs with a different action, “Walk up’ that supports standing up against bullying instead of protesting. But, those who are for protesting have another option. On March 24, a march against gun violence is being held in Kalamazoo starting at the flagpoles in Sangren Plaza at WMU at 1 p.m. The march will travel to Bronson Park and back. Sister marchers are being held nationwide, for the same purpose. Over 1000 Kalamazoo residents are marked as interested on Facebook for attending the March, which is being hosted by the Western Student Democrats. Any local organization is encouraged to attend.