By Taylor Lobb
The darkest grey charcoaled the sky, a backdrop that highlighted the ivory flowers on the blossom trees surrounding the quad. The cottony clouds were plump, as if they were stuffed with a torrential downpour they were holding back.
It was an eerie scene, a seemingly choreographed gloom you’d expect in straight-to-video movie.
The nationwide walkout to end gun violence was set to begin, and the Las Positas College campus was desolate. The whole nation of students was set, enraged and inspired, to make noise with a national protest. Yet the energy sweeping America didn’t seem to have reached here. The passion motivating teenagers and young adults across the land crashed into the wall of apathy at this suburban commuter school.
How could such a historic moment go unrecognized by, be unappealing to, an entire college community?
As the wind chill picked up, so did the somberness of the atmosphere.
Then, suddenly, the horizon was flushed with a swarm of students. To be sure, this wasn’t Martin Luther King leading protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. This wasn’t 25,000 women walking down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in 1915 for women’s suffrage. But as modern-day community colleges go, the sight was worthy of a triumphant movie backdrop.
As the students made their way to the rendezvous at the steps leading to the Learning and Resources Center, the gloom dissipated, even though the weathered sky remained. The sentiments that prompted this day were suddenly injected into the scene.
Unity. Change. Remembrance.
The display of unison revealed that this commuter school, full of affluent, self-absorbed students was much more involved and aware than its reputation.
LPC was a shining example of how this day was supposed to go. There was debate and discussion. There were hugs and tears. There was care and resolve.
Students convened and discussed their emotions gently. A comfortable chatter replaced the silent emptiness the air carried just five minutes before.
March 14, 2018 — exactly one month after 17 people were murdered at the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. — schools nationwide responded by participating in a walkout, a go-to form of peaceful protest used by students for decades. Las Positas College banded together to participate in the nationwide protest for gun reform.
The concept of the gathering was originally organized by the Women’s March Youth Empower, along with the social media hashtag #enough, according to Time writer Sarah Gray. It was to last 17 minutes to honor each person who was killed one month ago. The victims ranged from ages 14 to 49.
This became students’ voice in the national discussion about gun control, especially since many of them aren’t yet able to vote. Survivors from Parkland High prominently joined in the chorus in support of banning AR-15s and in disapproval of the NRA.
Due to the controversial nature of gun control itself, some campus administrations were quick to impede on the plans for a school walkout. Needville High School in Texas was one of them, referencing the nonviolent, unified protest as a “disruption” via its Facebook page. The Texas district’s Facebook post sent out by superintendent Curtis Rhodes threatened students with immediate three-day suspension upon any type of “student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness.”
Las Positas College was not one of those schools.
Lucas Hasten, an Anthropology professor at LPC, originally proposed the notion for participation by sending a campus-wide email. This stirred quite the discussion via email, in response.
Some responded with their support, while others shot down the idea entirely, claiming it was a complete waste of valuable time that could otherwise be used for educational purposes.
Yet here they stood, over 100 students together.
ASLPC President Tatiana Hernandez stood above the crowd, first addressing the outlets for change. She gave specific statistics about the death toll associated with guns, and inspired the crowd by saying “as young people, as college students, you guys are our future.” She reminded the community that they are all gathered directly because of the student body. She reminded the LPC community that they are 1 of over 2,500 schools to participate in this walkout, all student-organized.
Hernandez showed her depth and understanding of the different perspectives on the issue, stating that everyone was entitled to their opinion.
She wrapped up her eight minute speech by coming to this common ground: “Just like some of you might be pro Second Amendment, some of you might be pro gun control reform, but I think we can all agree that we are all safety right?” and the crowd was deafening in response.
For impact, nametags were handed out to each person by ASLPC representatives and Academic Senate President Melissa Korber, who assisted in organizing the event.
Each nametag read a first name, last name and an age. Each tag represented a victim of gun violence. Victims who no longer have the ability to voice their opinion. Victims who no longer have a voice at all.
There were other voices at the quad, though.
The Young Americans for Freedom Club was among the biggest critics on campus that day, a group established in part to preserve the Second Amendment, which provides Americans with the constitutional right to bear arms.
Noah Thomspon, 19, is one of the representatives of the club on the Las Positas campus. He played a major role in a heated debate that took place shortly after the protest ended on March 14, 2018.
Thomspon found himself in the crossfire with a large group of students who did not have a similar angle on the status of gun reform as he did.
Controversy arose from the get-go. While the negative feedback from the campus community made the local execution of such a crusade difficult, it did not stop representatives. It caused them to push harder.
“This walkout is education in itself,” said Hernandez, who took over the planning of action for the campus movement.
“Whatever you support, it is important for you to educate yourself on politics,” she said.
She explained that education is not just limited to the classroom. “We have to participate in our government, our politics, to make it a better place to live. People who thinks it’s a waste of time, they aren’t educated. I really believe that if they did a little research, they would be passionate towards something,” Hernandez said.
The resilient leader was not the only one to disagree with this point. Erik Gurney, a 17-year-old LPC Middle College student and participant in the protest, said, “What’s a lot more important than getting in every single minute of class, is people’s lives.”
He explained that the protest was, in fact, serving its purpose. “People saying this is a waste of class time is a direct reaction to the protest, which is the purpose of the protest itself. In people talking about it at all,” he said, “proves that it is effective.”
The crowd partook in one minute of silence in memory of those murdered by gun violence, followed by voluntary letters to congress on the matter. A memorial poster was also on display for the participants, recognizing each person killed in Florida with a photo.
Hernandez concluded the gathering with powerful words that resonated with everyone: “This is for not just the people who were affected in Parkland a month ago. This is for everyone that has been affected at school, or anywhere,” she said.
“I’m here (at school) because I want to get an education because I want to have a better future for myself and for my family, and I expect to come home at night and tell my parents I love them. It shouldn’t be the last time I see them because I went to school for a couple hours.”