Students, faculty and staff at Miami University gathered in solidarity with Miami’s chapter of Students Demand Action (SDA) to protest gun violence in America on Wednesday, April 12.
The protest, which took place in central quad, was one of the many rallies taking place at universities across the U.S. to launch the national chapter of SDA’s new campaign #KillerBusiness, which encourages colleges and universities to “divest from the firearms industry.”
The protest included personal testimonials from three guest speakers, all of whom had different experiences with gun violence.
Kelly Gunnels Valines, a survivor of gun violence, shared the story of the night her brother Reco was fatally shot at a convenience store.
“In that instant, they had made my brother a victim and a statistic,” Gunnels Valines said.
After her brother's death, Gunnels Valines started advocating against gun violence.
“When our family and I received the call about our brother Reco being shot, immediately we all became victims who will stand before you today, now as survivors,” Gunnels Valines said.
Lily Wahl, a first-year creative writing, English literature and Spanish triple major, spoke about her experience as a school gun violence survivor and the impact that day has on her.
“I often feel like I’m reduced by fear to being a scared 12-year-old, cowering in the corner of an unfamiliar classroom,” Wahl said.
Wahl admitted she hesitates getting involved in advocacy surrounding the issue of gun violence for fear of not knowing the correct terminology or having enough experience to accurately vocalize her concerns. However, she assured anyone who might feel similarly that their opinions and experiences are relevant and important.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
“No trauma is too insignificant to consider, to recognize, to name, to seek help for,” Wahl said. “No moment is insufficient to inspire action.”
Melinda Barman, a sophomore and member of Miami’s SDA chapter, spoke on the lack of regulation in the gun industry.
“We demand for the gun industry to be held accountable for the weapons they sell and for playing a role in preventing guns from ending up in the wrong hands and ensuring that all forms of gun violence are prevented,” Barman said. “There are solutions, and we are here to fight for that.”
Barman advocated for transparent information on who supplies crime guns, concerted efforts on gun reform and accountability for the federal government.
“We are fighting for our lives while the gun industry continues to watch us die,” Barman said.
Venus Harvey, a group lead for Miami’s SDA, said they were pleased with the turnout for the organization’s first protest.
“I think it turned out really well,” Harvey said. “We had a really great turnout overall, and I think our speakers were really impactful.”
They said this protest was something SDA has wanted to do for a while because of its relevance to college students.
“Guns are the number one killer of children, teens and college-aged youth in the United States,” Harvey said. “... institutions shouldn’t be profiting off of the industry that profits off our lives.”
Mitch Bronson, a sophomore political science major, came to the protest with his friends to support SDA’s cause. Bronson was impressed with the turnout of the protest and was excited to see that other students were aware of impactful political issues.
“Obviously other people here care about this issue, and this is something that was able to bring a lot of people together,” Bronson said.
Sophie Kwiatkowski, a sophomore English major, also came to the protest with her friends to advocate with others who are passionate about this issue.
“I feel like it can be so isolating and feel like nothing is happening when there are so many deaths occurring around the country,” Kwiatkowski said. “I think coming together and having a movement, especially on a campus, can make that isolation go away.”
Lily Wahl, a student quoted in this story, is a staff writer for The Miami Student.