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The Time Is Now

On the morning of March 24, 2018 the energy is palpable in the Boston Common. What was once the site of Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests in the 60’s and 70’s is now the main avenue of dissent in Massachusetts. Most recently, it has been the site of protests against the current administration and most notably the site of the Women’s March in 2016. It is not hyperbolic to say that there is a conscious effort to tie those events to this one. Old women walk by wearing pink “pussy hats” from the Women’s March, and a group of young teenagers of color pose for a picture along with the iconic black power salute. This spirit of protest and community echoes those previous struggles and breathes new life into this moment.

Due to the close proximity to the Boston Common, the Suffolk University community planned to gather beforehand to take the plunge into the masses together. I arrived a little before the others and took the opportunity to observe the crowd arriving for the protest. I was immediately struck by the diversity in the crowd. There were groups of teachers with signs reading, “Trained to be a teacher not a sharpshooter” and “Arm teachers with books not guns.” A school nurse, dressed in her typical work scrubs doused herself in gruesome artificial blood and encouraged people to write positive messages and remembrances on her. The huge number of children accompanied by their parents was inspiring. They held aloft homemade signs as they sat on their parents shoulders. One that particularly stood out to me read, “Even Batman doesn’t use guns.” 

The overall atmosphere was welcoming and inclusive. As the Common filled with people, it was moving to see all the diverse walks of life that people came from. The participants of the march helped each other through the mud and muck that comes from an early spring thaw in Massachusetts. I was fortunate and honored to march alongside my peers and educators during these monumental moments in history.

The march not only focused on school gun violence, but the larger issue of gun violence in America. They tied the issue of school shootings to police brutality against people of color, and extended the movement to include important allies. There was a general tone of disgust with the current level of fear in schools. Many people expressed frustration with the inaction of lawmakers in the wake of these national tragedies. In a world where elementary students being taught to hide under desks and tables if there is an active shooter in their school is common place, it is readily apparent that it is time for action.

The March For Our Lives was recently held in the Boston Common as a response to the recent tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida. The march was preceded by a school walkout that took place across the country. It is especially of note that large demonstrations took place in Boston even when there was no school due to the recent Nor’easter. The students of Parkland have taken this chance to turn the topic of gun violence into not only an issue but a moment in the political discourse of America. Their social media presence has kept the attention of a violence numb nation that doesn’t have time to focus on all of the almost weekly tragedies.

This social media presence however has not come without its criticism. It seems that for every supporter they find, there are an equal number of detractors, ready to shout them down in derogatory and vicious terms. This response has not been limited to anonymous internet trolls but has extended to established conservative commentators as well. They have attacked the students for being uninformed and chastised them to “go back to civics class.” They have unloaded a number of ad hominem attacks on these students that I think is entirely unjustified.  The point these critics miss is that these students would much rather not be in the news and the subject of debate. That they would just as quickly trade their current celebrity to go back to a normal life before the unconscionable tragedy that happen to them and their classmates.

It seems apparent that these students and their allies are not going anywhere anytime soon. They continue to dominate the news cycle and make their voices heard in the political dialogue. With this steadfast commitment it’s safe to say that we’re in good hands.   

All photo credit to James Walsh

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