CU Students Take a Stand: Joining a Nationwide Walkout
At 10 a.m., March 14, students from Cameron University joined students across the nation by walking out of class to protest gun violence. The walkout, organized by sophomore English major Briley Jones, was a response to the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting.
Cameron students met outside of the library, some with signs and others with only their words, to call for stricter regulations on guns in the name of student safety.
With the police present, as well as faculty members and various local media outlets, the protest went over peacefully.
For Jones, the process of organizing the event was rife with obstacles.
“I hung up flyers around campus, and I let people know on social media.” Jones said. “Even though I was kicked out of some of the groups on social media for voicing my opinion.”
Jones originally attempted to promote the event on the Cameron University Facebook Group, a privately run Facebook group for students to communicate with one another. The group, which is unaffiliated with Cameron University, deleted Jones’ announcements for the event – twice.
Jones felt as though this treatment was unfair, a result of administrators personally disagreeing with the nature of the event, rather than a result of Jones breaking the group’s rules.
“I contacted one of the admins, and she said my post was deleted because my personal views differed from those of Cameron,” Jones said.
“Which they don’t, because it’s a university and students are encouraged to express themselves.”
After being unable to promote the event on the Cameron University Group, he took to The Lawton Grapevine Facebook Group.
On March 7, Jones posted about the event:
Not long after Jones made the post, comments began flowing in. Some urged protesters to stay in school, while others mocked and even threatened Jones.
Kassidy Basham, a freshmen political science major who helped Jones organize the walkout, felt that the backlash they experienced was a result of being located in a largely conservative area. She urged against squelching other people’s ideas.
“In any place where there’s a strong leaning to one side we need to be sure that we’re not silencing the other,” Basham said.
Regardless of comments, Jones was optimistic.
“I’m pretty happy with the turn out considering how many people tried to silence me,” Jones said.
On the day of the protest, students stood in front of the library holding signs that read things like “‘Guns don’t kill people’ … Um yes they do” and “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.”
Students also took the time to vocalize their beliefs.
Though the protest was small, Jones saw the event as a success because of the media attention that it received.
“We got our opinion out to the community and possibly beyond the community,” Jones said.
For Jones, the message was important and long overdue.
“School shootings are constantly shoved down our throats,” Jones said. “It’s time to take a stand and say ‘enough is enough.’”
Basham said it wasn’t about the number of people; instead, it was about being seen.
She felt that they accomplished that, and she looked to the future as opportunity to continue the conversation.
“We’ve broken the ice. We’ve seen the reactions,” she said. “It’s time to keep trying.”
Jones also believed that the walkout was beneficial specifically for Cameron University by showing students that they can protest – that they have a right to voice their opinions.
Jones felt the small protest was a big deal for a typically quiet campus, with little student activism.
“We need more activism on campus and we need students to express their opinions and express themselves.”
Basham thought that the walkout was beneficial in that it encouraged discussion.
She hopes to see a more active campus in the future, where people on all sides of an issue are willing to communicate with one another and represent their ideals.
“We have to have a conscious student body,” she said. “We have to talk to one another and learn a little bit more.”
For student activists at Cameron, this is only the beginning.
“Be prepared.” Jones said. “Because we’re here to stay.”