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Miami participates in Parkland demonstrations

Miami University students plan to add their voices in the upcoming demonstrations in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. School walkouts and marches, organized by students across the nation, will peacefully for an end gun violence.

A walkout has been planned for Friday, April 20 in which high school and college students will abruptly leave their classrooms.

Charles Kennick, president of College Democrats, believes Miami will show its largest display on solidarity during this walkout.

"By then, the situation will have had time to simmer in the political discourse," Kennick said.

This walkout also falls on a Friday and on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting, all things which Kennick thinks will make the demonstration more accessible and relevant.

However, the national walkout is set to occur at 10 a.m., a time when most Miami students are either between classes or have yet started classes for the day.

"You would just be late," Kennick said. "There's no dramatic stand up and walk out, which is what you want."

College Democrats plan to hold a gathering during the walkout period, though where it will take place is not yet determined.

Miami has designated free speech areas on campus, including the sidewalk outside the Shriver Center and the Phi Delt gates near Uptown. However, Kennick imagines the assembly transpiring by the Seal, a place at the heart of the university where many people can bear witness and get the full effect of what these students hope to accomplish.

"There needs to be an overall understanding that guns are very dangerous," Kennick said. "It could happen here. It could happen anywhere. And to change things, people need to see that we as students here stand in solidarity with students everywhere on issues that are important."

Students from the Miami regional campuses are participating as well.

Sophomore Anna Thomas, who attends the Hamilton campus, recently made a trip to Oxford for a College Democrats meeting in hopes that the organization would endorse her plan to post signs around campus informing the student body that she is organizing a drive to attend the "March for Our Lives" gun-control rally in Washington D.C., on March 24.

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Thomas is encouraging fellow students to join her.

"I really do see a wave of change coming," Thomas said. "If there was ever a group within society that is going to give the NRA [National Rifle Association] some serious pushback, it would be these youths. I think we could be on a turning point, and I think this march could be the beginning of that."

Glenn Muschert, a Miami professor of sociology and social justice studies, has been studying school shootings for almost 20 years, beginning when he was a Ph.D. student in Colorado when tragedy struck at Columbine High School in 1999.

Muschert has seen strong advocacy for gun control in response to mass shootings before, but he has yet to see any significant changes in gun legislation, he said.

"There seemed to be a couple moments," Muschert said. "Columbine seemed to be a moment. The Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut seemed to be a moment. And it's terrible, but it seems as if the issue of guns is so entrenched that I can't really see it going anywhere."

However, he still has some hope for change. As an advisor for Miami's chapter of Amnesty International, Muschert has seen the power of students advocating for social justice issues.

"I see the hundreds of students from all over the country, and that's inspiring," he said. "Social change does happen and it never seems to be the right time. I wouldn't want to rule it out. People expressing their ideas has value. They may not achieve their set purpose, but they may have some other effect."