Students Demand Action attends protest in D.C.

The Students Demand Action club took a trip to the capital over the summer. The four day trip ended in a spontaneous march to the White House.

From+left+to+right%2C+Aedan+Bennett+%2811%29%2C+Asher+Montgomery+%2810%29%2C+Sabrina+Feldman+%2811%29+and+Anika+Nayak+%2812%29+in+front+of+the+White+House+soon+after+the+protest.

From left to right, Aedan Bennett (11), Asher Montgomery (10), Sabrina Feldman (11) and Anika Nayak (12) in front of the White House soon after the protest.

Disclaimer: Writer Asher Montgomery is a member of Students Demand Action.

500 people gathered in front of the White House. Orange and red shirts blend together in a mass. Mostly middle aged women, and quite a few students as well, joined in a commonality of being tired of hearing about shooting after shooting. This day marked the day when 20 people were shot to death at a mall in El Paso, Texas. Our anger was shown through our chants,  “Actions not prayers, Actions not prayers, Actions not prayers.” Our passion was shown through the mention of a name from anyone in the crowd killed in an act of gun violence and a murmur of the name flowing out of mouths in repetition. Our love was shown when at 9:15 everyone went silent and help up the flashlight from their phones for 100 seconds, 100 second representing the 100 people that die from gun violence everyday.

Asher Montgomery

Five of our schools Students Demand Action members attended the vigil protest in Washington D.C, previously having completed three days of classes, discussions, case studies and panels about gun violence prevention and how to run the student organization effectively at Gun Sense University (GSU). Sabrina Feldman (11) Gillian Bennett (12), Aedan Bennett (11), Anika Nyak (12), and myself, Asher Montgomery (10), made up a small part of the 250 students participating in GSU. Also in attendance were over 1,750 adult members of Moms Demand Action. On the third day, while waiting for a guest speaker to arrive on stage we received the message that there was an active shooter at a mall in El Paso, Texas. 18 were reported injured at the time. That number rose to 20 dead and 26 injured by the end of the day. In less than 5 hours a plan was set, 3 mile trip to the white house, to make a statement and to honor victims. 

While previously students under 18 were not allowed to leave the hotel without a parent or guardian, an exception was made as plans formed after dinner that night, as long as we had our parents email the organization giving us permission to go. Our group hustled to text parents, change clothes and gather our things. Gillian Bennett decided to stay behind at the hotel and served as a home base to keep in contact with. We walked to the metro station and rode with moms from all over the country to where a large group was already gathered. The White House seemed different than from when I’d visited it before. While previously I was in awe and felt small under the gaze of the president’s home, with this group, it seemed to falter under our power. We squeezed our way up to the center. Names were being shared then repeated loudly by the whole group. The names included victims of mass shootings across America like Parkland, Sandy Hook, Pulse and the most recent, El Paso. Recognized also was the fact that mass shootings take up only 1.5% of the gun violence in this country, so, names of black men shot by police as well as names of our neighbors and friends who’ve been shot were shared aloud too. Different chants were started for the next 30 minutes. “Hey hey NRA how many kids have you killed today?”  the red and orange mass asked to no one in particular. The National Rifle Association was under fire of the members of Gun Sense University on that four day trip because of their involvement in the inexistence of gun sense laws in the United States.

“The vigil was very powerful demonstration, I really enjoyed how it was spontaneous and how when we went there everyone gathered and was so supportive in standing in solidarity for the victims of gun violence,” Nayak said. Nayak looks forward to bringing the skills back to Tampa to focus on bringing attention to the issue of not only mass shootings, but every day acts in different communities. 

“The mass mobilization of people in such a powerful monument really showed people across the country that this is a group of people that are not going to stop in the fight against gun violence,” Nayak said. “They’re going to continue fighting and they’re going to continue advocating for people in their communities.”

Before the students were sent back to the hotel for curfew, a silence spread through the crowd and we raised our lighted phones. A peaceful yet sullen look replaced the angry faces that had been shouting moments before, and together we honored those we now spend our time fighting not to become. 100 seconds. One second for each person that dies by gun violence everyday.