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    ‘I Believe That Children Are Our Future’

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    In November of 2017, I wrote a column entitled “Enough Already, We Need Stricter Gun Control” (http://sfbaytimes.com/enough-already-need-stricter-gun-control/). Last month, in response to the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, I again implored that our leaders tighten up regulations on gun ownership, particularly assault rifles (http://sfbaytimes.com/another-mass-shooting-now-can-stricter-gun-control/). Since February 14, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have turned their anguish into action and ignited a movement that has galvanized the nation and just might break the decades-long stalemate on gun control reform.

    On Wednesday, March 14, instead of taking part in traditional Pi Day festivities such as eating pie and calculating π (Pi) to a quadrillion decimal places, students across the country participated in 17-minute acts of solidarity by walking out of school. The walkouts, representing both tribute and protest, were held at 10 am local time and lasted 17 minutes in recognition of the 17 lives lost.

    The students’ demands are: a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks before gun sales, and a restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior. Students are insisting that their elected representatives do something before another school is victimized by gun violence. It’s not left versus right, Republican versus Democrat. The kids are working together to effect positive change—something the adults haven’t been able to do since a certain “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” was elected President.

    As a result of students’ coordinated efforts across the country, lawmakers are getting the clear message that this selfie-taking, Instagram-posting, Snapchat-sharing generation not only demands change, but also will fight to make it happen. Social change movements and activism on college campuses have a rich history in our country, from McCarthyism to Vietnam War protests to the recent clashes between Black Lives Matter and white nationalists. What is often overlooked is that some of the most inspirational acts of civil disobedience that led to landmark Supreme Court decisions have been driven by students of high school age or younger.

    In 1957, nine black students attempted to enroll at formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their attendance was in response to the Brown v. Board of Education 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The “Little Rock Nine” defied the governor of Arkansas and the pictures of National Guard soldiers blocking the students from entering the school made national headlines and polarized the nation. The event was considered the seminal moment in the battle for school desegregation.

    In 1965, Mary Beth Tinker, a 13-year-old junior high school student in Des Moines, Iowa, organized a group of friends to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. The students were told that they could not attend school until they removed their armbands. They protested by wearing black clothing for the remainder of the school year. With representation by the ACLU, the families fought a four-year court battle that resulted in the landmark Supreme Court decision Tinker v. Des Moines. In 1969 the Court ruled that students in public schools do have First Amendment rights and do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

    The current protests can make a difference. The passion of the students of Parkland has already spread to a national level and created conversations about gun control and student safety. The pressure to force congress to introduce gun reform laws has garnered substantial media attention and can no longer be ignored. It is only fitting that the following quote was penned by the namesake of the school itself:

    “Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.” Marjory Stoneman Douglas

    Take Part in the ‘March for Our Lives’ Movement

    The actions of March 14 were part of a greater movement spurred by survivors of the Parkland shooting. On Saturday, March 24, a larger demonstration will be held in Washington, D.C. For more information, see the main website (https://marchforourlives.com/). If you can’t get to Washington, consider attending a local march in the Bay Area. Oakland will start us off at 10 am at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, followed by San Francisco’s rally and march starting at 1 pm at Civic Center Plaza. Come out and walk for change so that no one should ever have to run for their lives from another mass shooting event ever again.

    Louise “Lou” Fischer is the Immediate Past Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a San Francisco Commissioner and has served in leadership positions in multiple non-profit and community-based organizations.