Image by the EMPOWER organization, promoting a national school walkout movement on March 14, 2018 at 10 a.m. in solidarity with victims of school shootings.
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Tomorrow morning, PCC will be participating in the national school walkout which is both a memorial in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting and a protest against current gun laws.

According to EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March group who created the event, more than 2,500 organizations across the nation and some internationally plan to participate.

Students are encouraged to leave their classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, in recognition of the 17 deaths at Stoneman Douglas High School.

After the 17 minutes, students at PCC can go back to class or engage further by uniting with other students at the mirror pools to share a minute of silence, listen to speakers and get an idea of the student voice by writing opinions of the proposed demands on gun reform, which will be presented on posters.

“We’re hopefully going to get people from health services and other departments on campus to go and speak to students and talk about the importance of better gun regulations and safety on campuses,” said Kiely Lam, Associated Students president.

Natalie Lau, Associated Students Public Relations Vice President, is in charge of the publicity committee promoting the event. The committee set up an event on Facebook last Friday. On Monday, her committee posted flyers all over campus.

Lau also plans to send out an email to the faculty, informing them of the event.

“It’s not our place to tell professors, ‘let your students go out,’ but I think it’s important for them to know that this is what’s happening,” she explained.

Some students are a bit wary about missing class. When asked if she thought students would skip class for the walkout, PCC student Harley Rogers said, “It kind of depends on your professor.”

Even if students don’t have class, uniting on campus involves extra time, effort and gas money for commuter students.

“I don’t live around here. I live kind of far,” Rogers said.

Rogers still wants to find a way to get involved. She’s moved by the Parkland teens’ persistence for reform and frustrated by the lack of action in the past.

“The future is in the teens’ hands because, right now, it seems like nothing’s really changing,” said Rogers.

How can we stop the Parkland shooting from becoming yesterday’s forgotten news? What can we do as students to make sure there are implemented methods to keep school communities safe?

“It demands more than just prayers,” said PCC student Jason Jig. “We have to act now, act as fast as possible, to prevent any shootings like this from happening.”

Jig plans on attending the event. He will ask his professor if he can be excused.

“Any little thing that I can do, I want to be able to help as much as possible because this is something that I don’t want anyone to go through,” Jig said. “We need to have more regulations, stricter gun laws. In doing that, we have to be more proactive, doing protests and like anything that can get the attention of our representatives.”

According to CNN, a school in Nevada and another in Virginia are encouraging alternative forms of protest, like wearing ribbons or having a student-led assembly on school safety.

Since it was a professor that brought the event to the attention of Associated Students, effectively nudging them to start making plans, most PCC professors will probably be supportive of participation in the walkout.

Upon hearing about the walkout, Human Nutrition professor Nicholas Hatch said he would adjust his lecture to allow for 17 minutes of student participation in this event.

Even if professors are unsupportive, they cannot deny students their First Amendment right to protest. The extent of the punishment can only be equal to the normal punishment of skipping a class on any given day.

Tony Juge, member of the Safe Learning Environment Committee, stated in an email, “as an individual faculty member I fully support our students as political beings to express themselves in this fashion to demand for a gun-free and safe learning environment.”

Campus police Sgt. Bill Abernathie said his staff was informed as of Tuesday last week and will be prepared to respond if any violence occurs. However, the police presence is not intended to be intrusive or upsetting. Abernathie affirmed his support of the students’ right to protest.

“Each and every single student should feel safe and welcome by the community to have open and respectful dialogue,” said Luis Cervantes, an assistant for PCC’s Safe Zones, a coalition supporting LGBTQ and undocumented students.

PCC student Valerie Osegueda is eager to attend.

“I hope there’s a big turn out,” Osegueda said. “I mean it seems like there will be because a lot of people are aware of it and, especially us students, we know the fear of having to go to school and that occurring to us, so we also know this affects us directly.”

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