Just like high school and college students around the nation, the Keene State College Feminist Collective has arranged a student walkout to protest against gun violence.

photo contributed by justin mahan

photo contributed by justin mahan

The school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla on Feb. 14 seemed to be the last straw for many American students.  Walkouts took place all over the country on the one month anniversary of the shooting to protest gun violence. According to The New York Times article, “National School Walkout: Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the US” by Vivian Yee and Alan Blinder, “In New York, in Chicago, in Atlanta, and Santa Monica; At Columbine High School and in Newtown Conn. and in many more cities and towns, students left school by the hundreds and the thousands at 10 a.m..”

The Feminist Collective Organization has titled their walkout initiative “Keene Says Enough.” The mission statement of Keene Says Enough states: “The Feminist Collective is organizing to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. Our mission is to support all victims of gun violence, including victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, communities of color, the LGBTQ community and all students. Keene State College has had enough.”

According to President of the Feminist Collective Organization and co-organizer of Keene Says Enough, Katherine Briefs, there are two actions under this mission.

Briefs said the first action was a trip to the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. during the weekend of March 23. The second is a large-scale student walkout with a subsequent rally and breakout sessions on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. She said the rally will work in solidarity with thousands of other school walkouts taking place across the United States.

Students are welcomed to walkout of class and join a rally on the Lloyd P. Young Student Center lawn from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.. There will be two teach-in style breakout sessions from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m..

Briefs said she was amazed by the student interest in the March for Our Lives event and that’s what influenced her and first-year co-organizers, Jack Davis and Maura Cavagnaro to arrange a student walkout on the KSC campus. “We see the interest,” Briefs said. “We see people going and driving out of town to come to these things. We see students emailing me all night long and messaging me because they want to have their voices heard and there’s not a space for that. We feel that it’s necessary to create that space. And as long as there is a demand, we will continue to push.”

Briefs said she was also pleasantly surprised by the support of the college and KSC faculty. “In terms of the institutional support, I am astonished and just very pleased by how much institutional support we have because that was a concern for us,” she said.

The breakout sessions taking place at the event give a unique and knowledgeable twist on the ordinary concept of a student walkout,  Briefs explained. “We don’t want to just march out of class, be angry for 20 minutes and be done. We want to prepare people and prepare organizers to make change going forward. We are aware that this one event is not going to change the world but we’re hoping to sprout seeds from this event,” she added.  For both sessions, students will have the choice between five different presentations to attend. Briefs said that presentations will be given by Campus Safety, a panel of gun violence survivors, KSC professors, and many more organizations and groups. She also said that local politicians are currently being contacted to speak at the rally or breakout sessions.

Briefs said there will be gathering events, taking place multiple times a week the three weeks prior to the walkout. All students are welcome to help organize, ask questions and converse about the event. “We would love to have as many people organizing as possible and so we’re giving that space. For us, it’s really about creating a space for people. A space that’s accessible, a space that’s inclusive and a space that’s really welcoming for all,” she said.

First-year co-organizer Jack Davis said the event will also be used to show support for gun violence victims and for schools, such as Parkland and Sandy Hook, who have been impacted by tragic shootings. “It’s also to stand with the victims of gun violence… we’re showing our support as a college. We’re all students, and it’s scary to think about, but we’ve all been affected by this,” he said.

Davis continued by saying that Keene’s student walkout differs from others because it provides students with beneficial information, allowing them to become enlightened activists. “In no way am I minimizing other school walk-outs, but we’re definitely educating students more… We have break-out sessions where [students] can go and learn more and go learn how to be more active in helping this. I think we’re taking a very mature and responsible approach,” he added.

Maura Cavagnaro agreed with Davis, saying the walkout varies from others in the United States. Cavagnaro said this is because the event focuses on a bigger idea than gun violence on school property. “It’s not just about the gun violence on school campuses,” she said. “It’s about people of color, the LGBTQ community, Mentors and Violence Prevention. So it’s not just about school campus shootings, it’s also looking to other categories of it.”

Cavagnaro said she hopes the event will give her generation the awareness and education required to take action and speak out about gun violence. “We want them to walk away with more knowledge about it and the tools to do something about it,” she added.

To stay updated on gathering events, all students are welcome to join the KSC Feminist Collective Group on Facebook.

Ashley Arnold can be contacted at aarnold@kscequinox.com