Instead of simply standing up against gun violence, Sewanee students chose to lie down in solidarity with its many victims. On Wednesday, April 5, over 100 students gathered on the quad to participate in the nationwide walkout against gun violence. The event was inspired and promoted by the group Students Demand Action. There have been at least 139 mass shootings in 2023 alone according to the Gun Violence Archive. On K-12 school property, there have been 85 victims so far in 2023 and last year in 2022 the total was 273 according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. After the shooting on March 27 in Nashville Tennessee at the Covenant School claimed the lives of six individuals, students used their voices to peacefully protest against gun violence and advocate for reform. Everyone gathered and laid down on the quad for six minutes in order to honor the innocent lives lost. Since the tragedy in Nashville, there have been 13 other mass shootings (as of April 9).
Photo courtesy of Beylie Ivanhoe
Elizabeth de Wetter (C’23), organized the walkout on Sewanee’s campus and was the first to speak to students. She encouraged those on the quad to chant, “No more silence. End gun violence.” Speaking to the student body, she said, “We need action to keep students safe not just in schools, but in their communities. And this means widespread gun regulation is needed.”
QR codes pasted on posters near the speakers gave students access to petitions and signed them up to receive a toolbox from the organizers. This toolbox, that students received in email form, contained links to petitions to require background checks and stop gun trafficking. In addition, a Google Doc was attached with further resources and actionable steps for students to take.
Natalie Price (C’23), was another student involved in the organization of the event and supported de Wetter throughout the process and the walkout. When approached by The Purple, she said, “I feel like we have this misconception that we’re safe on a college campus.” The shooting in February at Michigan State University that claimed the lives of three students and injured more only proves Price’s point that gun violence is not only a threat to K-12 students. The shooting in Nashville was not a singular event and Price said, “It [the threat of gun violence] applies to everyone, not just in the state of Tennessee, but this whole country and we have to actually do something.” For Price, helping with the event was “important to do and it was something that we [students] could do.”
Peter Gray, the University chaplain, also spoke at the protest. He gave a moving speech about the future he saw for students across the country, and advocated for regulation moving forward. “We have let the world become this way. And that truth should make us sad. Not resigned, not numb,” he said, “That truth should make us feel something deep.” He ended his speech by compelling students to imagine a new future and be a part of the change we wish to see.
When The Purple approached de Wetter, she said, “I continue to be shocked and dismayed by the lives that are lost and I think I keep going back to the place of feeling really hopeless and not knowing what to do. And I hope that maybe an event like this can keep moving us in the right direction.”
Overall, the event lasted about 20 minutes and many students went straight to McClurg for lunch afterward. Some professors encouraged their whole class to walk to the quad and participated along with the students. Deans and other administrators were also present. The protest represented the ways in which students can use their voices and peacefully protest against the injustices they see in the world. With the privilege and the ability to walk out of class, students demonstrated their solidarity with the fight to end gun violence.
Photo courtesy of Beylie Ivanhoe