Students, faculty join ‘March for our Lives’ in Philadelphia


The Beacon/Maddie Davis

Gregory Chang and Keira Kuhar lead Wilkes University students and faculty down Market Street in Philadelphia during the March for Our Lives Protest on Mar. 24.

On Saturday, March 24, students and faculty from Wilkes University traveled to Philadelphia to attend the March For Our Lives protest for gun safety against the current administration and the NRA.

The march was one of almost 900 around the globe to protest gun violence and propose gun safety in the wake of the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, where 17 faculty, staff and students were gunned down at the hands of Nicholas Cruz and his AR-15.

The students of Parkland started a widespread movement “enough is enough,” regarding gun violence, and inspired many Wilkes University students and staff to attend the event. The young students particularly inspired junior secondary education and history major Ian Valles.

“I think a debt of gratitude is owed to them, especially Millennials and Gen Z who are doing so much and are apart of the resistance to make sure something like this never happens to our country again,” said Valles. “Truthfully it is our future and we have to actually be alive on this planet to make a future for ourselves.”

Valles was joined by 15 faculty and staff from Wilkes University to march from Independence Hall to Penn’s Landing to rally and listen to guest speakers and music about gun violence and change.

As thousands marched the streets of Philadelphia, Wilkes students made their voices heard, particularly Geraldine Ojukwu, junior political science major, whose chants were repeated by those who marched.

“What do we want,” screamed Ojukwu. “Gun control,” replied the mass of protesters. “When do we want it,” asked Ojukwu, “Now,” replied the crowd.

Other chants filled the crowd to externally show what they stood for in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.

“We’re gonna put one foot in front of the other and lead with love,” sang one group of protestors.

Wilkes students had also made signs showing their outward support for gun control for the march.

“We are students, we are victims, we are change,” read Ashley Baker’s sign, a freshman criminology and sociology major.

“Promises without action are lies that cost lives,” read nursing major, Lauren Coleman’s sign.

Gregory Chang, first year pre-pharmacy student, alongside Keira Kuhar, first year student, held a sign with the Wilkes University Logo that read “never again.” The sign depicted many of Wilkes University’s students stance on gun violence in schools, never wanting it to happen again.

Chang organized the trip to Philadelphia for those who wanted to voice their opinion and join the march as a Wilkes community.

“I wanted to voice my opinion and I wanted to let other Wilkes students voice their opinions because I know this is a very important topic in the country right now,” said Chang.

“I wanted to come here because this is unacceptable with what is happening in this country. It really is just unbelievable how many shootings are occurring, just this year alone, let alone the past 20 years. Something needs to be done and nothing is,” he said.

The guest speakers included a diverse group of people; from senators, to survivors of columbine, to students now, and many more, all voiced their difference in experiences of gun violence and control.

The message throughout each speaker was clear: there is an imminent problem in this country with guns. Innocent children and adults are dying not only in schools, but on the streets because of these guns. That we as a country need gun control, fast.

“Congress, we don’t want your prayers, we want gun reform,” said Rachel Steinig, a freshman student leader of the event.

Steinig also called out the racial and classist bias in the media coverage of school shootings and advocated for the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement who is overlooked even though they too support gun control.

“If Stoneman Douglas had been a poor school in a black neighborhood, the shooting and subsequent movement would definitely not have received as much coverage and popular support,” she said.

Another speaker, Mark Timpon is the father of Dominick, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who survived the shooting on Feb. 14. Dominick himself passed the shooter in a staircase as he was reloading. Timpon, a former owner of an AR-15, the weapon Cruz used in the shooting, gave up his gun and is sense advocating for stricter gun laws since he had purchased his gun with the “gun show loophole.”

“February 14th changed my life in many different ways,” said Timpon. “If there was one more round in that 30 round magazine my son might have died that day.”

“It took this horrible massacre to change my views and change the way I think now,” said Timpon.

“It was one-hundred percent legal, what I did, and that is one of the problems,” he said about the gun show loophole, where Timpon purchased his AR-15 under the government’s radar.

“The AR-15 is not made for hunting, it is made for killing,” he said.

Senator Bob Casey, an alumni for Parkland, and state representative Brian Sims also joined the stage to voice their opinions on gun control.

The Wilkes University students reacted to their experience and explained why they joined the Philadelphia March for Our Lives protest.

“I marched because I feel like it’s our time to make a change,” said sophomore political science and criminology major Samantha Trobe. “Just arriving at the march today I became overwhelmed with joy seeing all the people from different ethnicities, races, and genders, old people, young people, marching for a united cause.”

Robbie Petrovich, a sophomore history, secondary education and political science major also reflected on his experience at the march.

“I’ve always kind of been a silent partaker in politics and I just feel like it was finally time for me to stand up for something I really believe in especially me being an aspiring teacher,” said Petrovich.

“It was a great experience,” said Megan Graham, freshman history major, “I thought it was great and it was a great turnout.”

Dr. Andreea Maierean, political science professor was one of the two professors who joined Wilkes students in the march, the other being Dr. Ellen Newell of the Psychology Department.

“Today we have seen democracy and student activism at its best. It felt great to be part of a movement that fights for change in a passionate, articulate and peaceful manner,” said Maierean.

“In the end, if we manage to leave aside the ideological barriers, it becomes obvious that this student-led movement is all about saving innocent lives through responsible public policy. It is about putting an end to the outbreak of mass shootings that lead 187,000 American students to become exposed to gun violence since Columbine,” said Maierean. “It is about exterminating the contagion of school shootings that does not happen anywhere else in the world except the United States.”