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Great Barrington middle schoolers to hold walkout to protest political inaction on school gun violence

WEB DU BOIS MIDDLE SCHOOL.jpg
Ben Doren
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W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Students at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts are planning a walkout Friday to protest gun violence in schools.

While Friday’s walkout comes with the approval of school administrators, it follows an unauthorized walkout led by students after news of the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last month.

“That was quite empowering. We weren't really sure what to expect. But it felt like in the moment, that was where we had power, because, you know, a lot of us are like 13, 14, we can't drive anywhere, we can't vote. So, that was sort of descending from our fury and our sadness as to what's going on in our nation today," said eighth-grader Mirabelle Meyers of Mill River. “The most horrible thing about gun violence is even though in Massachusetts, we do have relatively strict gun laws, this could happen anywhere, and children across the nation anywhere do deserve the right to go to school without fear. And a lot of it was also just our fury, because, like I said, we can't vote. So a lot of it was our anger directed to officials who are not doing anything and who are not taking the necessary steps to protect people in our country.”

It isn’t the first action she and her friends have taken part in of while attending Du Bois Middle School.

“When Mirabelle and I were in sixth grade, we organized a walkout to protest climate change along with and along with one of our other friends," said Sadie Honig-Briggs, of Tyringham.

Also an eight-grader, she says gun violence in schools looms as a daily worry.

“It's just terrifying, because you think that it's not going to happen where you are," said Honig-Briggs. "But I can guarantee you that the people, the survivors, and the victims of these shootings around the country, they thought that it wouldn't happen where they are, and then it did. And so, it's very scary to have to walk into school, just wondering if what's happening around the country is going to happen to you that day.”

With each new school shooting, Honig-Briggs and her peers grapple with the reality that such incidents have become a seemingly intractable part of American life.

“It almost feels normal when we hear about them, which is just such a terrible thing that such a tragedy, which is not something that happens in other places around the world, just has become normal to us because of how frequently it happens,” she told WAMC.

The students’ protest comes with specific demands.

“Our government tends to debate. There's a lot of pointing fingers instead of taking action, and it really makes me sad that this country can't even seem to agree on the safety of its children, and that they'll sit there and they'll point fingers and they'll tell us that it's enough, but they really are taking no action or steps. And it makes me very sometimes disappointed to live in a country that can't seem to agree on simple things like no racism or homophobia or sexism and gun violence," said Meyers. “I'd like to see stronger laws for background checks for starters. Background checks are a huge thing. Domestic abusers can acquire them if background checks are not done."

“I don't think just any person should be able to have a gun in this country. I think people argue that it's to protect themselves. But in reality, that's just an excuse, and they're really just used to harm others,” said Honig-Briggs. “We want it to be easier to pass gun reform laws in Congress, and we want the Senate majority leader to give the Senate a chance to actually vote on gun reform laws and all the filibusters that are happening that prevent these things from making it past the Senate. And we want eligible voters to vote. We want to empower the older, the eligible voters in our community to vote because there's only so much we can do by leading a protest. And because we cannot vote ourselves, we need to make it clear that we need other people to vote for us until we can. But most of all, I think personally what I want is to just dismantle the idea that owning a gun or threatening with a gun or harming with a gun makes someone more American.”

The students of W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School will hold their walkout around noon.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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