Protesting Unites Teens, Gives Them a Voices in Pressing Issues


Graphic By William Gangnath

In response to recent hazing allegations and then charges for five JV football players at Damascus, all athletic directors held a meeting with fall athletes that reviewed MCPS hazing policies.

The teenage years are often a time of searching for one’s identity, discovering passions and etching out a clear place in the world. While teens are often written off as inexperienced, lazy and naive, recently there has been an upsurge in teen activism. As shown through recent national issues, teens are finding their voices and coming together in protest to lead a movement that adults are widely ignoring.
Teenagers are the future. They are future voters, future taxpayers and future leaders, thus their opinion should matter the most when it comes to local, national and even global issues.
Historically, many groundbreaking movements were started and led by teenagers. In 1970, students at Kent State University led a protest against the Vietnam War. In 2012, undocumented students held sit-ins in legislative offices to prevent deportation of DREAMers, risking their own deportation and legal status.
More recently, teenagers engaged in the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri protests over the killing of unarmed black men by police. In 2015, students at the University of Missouri protested several racially insensitive incidents.
Following the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla., teenagers rallied together and organized a national student walk-out as well as the “March for Our Lives” protest in Washington D.C.
An estimated 183,000 students walked out of over 3,100 schools in all 50 states for the March 14 gun control march, according to a March 14 NBC News article. Around 180,000 people attended the March 24 “March for Our Lives” protest in D.C., according to a March 24 New York Times article. These protests illustrate the staggering and impressive numbers teenagers can bring out when they want to make their voices heard on an issue.
Adults may think students just participated to miss class, but these students have clear demands. The National Student Walkout demanded three key actions from Congress: ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.
The walkouts were unprecedented in recent American history, not seen in this size since student protests of the Vietnam War, according to a March 14 Washington Post article. Furthermore, the protests have garnered local and national recognition, putting intense pressure on companies, states and most importantly, politicians seeking re-election in the coming 2018 midterm elections.
Further spotlighting the power of these protests has been changes already happening around the country. Just three weeks after the Parkland shooting, Florida legislature passed a new gun control bill, which raised the minimum age from 18 to 21, created a waiting period and banned bump stocks, according a March 3 New York Times article.
Gun control legislation is also coming to the forefront in other states. Washington state passed a bill banning the sale of bump stocks, and Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island signed an executive order for a “red flag” policy, allowing police or relatives to ask judges to strip a gun owners’ rights if that person is displaying violence or warning signs, according to a March 1 ABC News article. While these laws are victories for the MSD students and gun control activists everywhere, they fail to address some major concerns, such as banning assault weapons or strengthening background checks.
Major companies are also paying attention to teens’ concerns as many have recently cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) such as Hertz, Delta Airlines, MetLife and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Dick’s, a major gun retailer, announced it would no longer sell assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in their stores, according to a March 23 CNBC article. Citigroup also became the first major Wall Street Bank to implement a gun-control policy, saying it will not do business with companies who sell guns to people under 21 or those who don’t pass background checks.
While progress is being made, changes like these reinforce the need for protesting because the momentum of this movement must continue in order for voices to be heard and for this issue to remain in the public spotlight. Gun legislation will never be made possible if the issue is simply allowed to disappear.
While adults often characterize teens as apathetic to the world around them, the recent protests and activism show just the opposite. Protesting allows students to assume responsibility in the world and establish a voice for themselves. It also reveals their deep passion for issues that affect them, creating a unique unity not expected by many.
Students need to continue protesting and speaking out publicly. Despite what many adults think, teenagers have strong opinions on important issues. Teens care deeply about safety and the state of the country. Through these protests, they are demonstrating empathy and compassion, unseen in Congress’s inaction. Protests are important because it shows students care about social issues and are knowledgeable on them. Students are not going to sit idly by and be apathetic toward the world they are inheriting, rather they are being proactive and engaging with the world around them to make it a better place.
For all of those adults who were writing off teens as lazy and saying they would eventually lose interest, it is clear that these protests are having significant effects.