Students at Inman Middle School in Atlanta are protesting on Wednesday, March 14 for better gun control in America. They intend to spread the message that guns need regulation in America and to honor the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Floridas by walking out of the school. This isn’t the only student-planned protest in the country. Survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting organized the March For Our Lives. The protest, which will be March 24 in Washington, D.C., is expected to have more than 500,000 people. The organizers of the Washington protest say their purpose is to not allow “one more child to be shot at school.” VOX ATL decided to interview some of the organizers from Inman and see what they have to say about guns in America, their motivations and who was behind it.
The organizers: Malori Switzer, Jack Kast, DeAndre Campbell, Yei Bin Andrews, Anna Rachwalski, Sophie Markovi, Ella Mitchell, Lillian Wilson and Jovian Krey-Patel are very eager to get their message out to the public. Their Instagram account, @ims_students_for_change, is where they are primarily spreading their message. They currently have more than 170 followers and growing. Fourteen-year-old DeAndre Campbell said they have more than “100 participants and we are still counting.” He continued, “We have at least 30 new participants every day. We reach out to other people by using social media apps and texting friends and family members to spread the word.”
Their Instagram account says 118 (as of Feb. 25) students have currently said they will participate in the walkout. “Safety is crucial, and it directly affects us as students. The more we advocate for change, the more likely we succeed over time,” Yei Bin Andrews said. This seems to be the rationale the organizers have for this protest. They hope this walkout draws more awareness for gun control in America.
Thirteen-year-old Lillian Wilson explained how the Parkland shooting affected her. “The Parkland shooting has made me realize that school shootings have become a norm in this country. It shouldn’t be normal for children’s lives to be taken. Gun control in this country needs to be tighter,” Wilson said. “Someone who has been diagnosed with mental illness and has a history of being reported for violence shouldn’t be able to buy guns. The time for thoughts and prayers is over, it’s time to take action.” Students across the nation have similar beliefs. They are eager for change in America and are hoping it will come soon.
All of the students seem to have been very affected by the shooting. Thirteen-year-old Malori Switzer explained what her motivation was for organizing the walk in. “My main motivation came from a speech given by a student and victim of the Florida shooting. She was in tears but she never faltered. She knew what was happening and she controlled the room. Before I saw that video I didn’t think a protest would actually happen. But, after I understood what those kids went through, I knew we needed a protest.”
Jack Kast, one of the organizers, was asked why the youth’s involvement in political matters. “It is imperative that adolescents get involved in politics because pretty soon, we are going to be the workers and people that have to enact change,” he said. “Just because we are disenfranchised, that doesn’t mean that we can’t participate in civic matters. All the issues facing the world have an impact on us.”
Jack believes that although they can’t vote, the youth can still participate in the community. Fourteen-year-old Yei Bin Andrews then explained how the walkout would affect Atlanta. “Atlanta has a history of helping drive social change.” He added, “After the events in Parkland, we have an opportunity to have our voices heard and begin to create change.”
The students seem to have a lot of support from their peers, but what do the parents think? Fourteen-year-old Anna Rachwalski said her mother is really supportive of her involvement, but her father wants her to be cautious.
“My mom actually really supports me being involved in gun control, Rachwalski said. “She is active in several Facebook groups and discussions about it. My dad also believes in gun reform, but just doesn’t want to make a political statement until he knows all of the facts. They both know about me planning this and support me. They’re very happy that I’m taking a stand on one of my beliefs and leading.”
The students also said the administration is very supportive of the walkout. “[The staff members] support students’ rights and they appreciate the concern that most students are feeling right now,” Kast said.
VOX ATL also asked the students what challenges they plan to face and how they have prepared for them.
“As we have been planning our event, we have been faced with many questions,” said Jovian Krey-Patel, another 14-year-old organizer. As we will be leaving during our first class, we are discussing possible solutions with our administrative team. One question we have is: Will students misbehave or disrupt the walkout? This is our toughest question because at least 10 percent (as of Feb. 24) of the school has signed up and we don’t know all of these people. We are currently in contact with administrators, but we believe that we can trust our fellow students,”
The final battle Patel said they may have is if any students will get in trouble. He said that is the biggest question, but also the easiest. “Our principal is working with us to allow for a protest to happen on school grounds.”
The students are anticipating this protest because to them, it will raise awareness about gun violence in America. With over 15 percent of the school attending, they intend to come in big numbers with a bigger voice.
Meet the Organizers
Ella Mitchell (14)- Inman Middle School student and competitive cheerleader.
Jovian Krey-Patel (14)- Loves traveling on Delta.
Yei Bin Andrews (14)
Sophie Markovic (13)- Queer photographer who partakes in activism.
Lillian Wilson (13)- Art lover and drawer.