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Parkland, Florida shooting survivors talk student activism at UC Berkeley event

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MALLIKA SESHADRI | STAFF

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JANUARY 27, 2019

Updated 1/28/19: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay.

March for Our Lives activists David Hogg and Ryan Deitsch, survivors of the February 2018 Parkland, Florida shooting, held a question-and-answer session for UC Berkeley students Sunday afternoon at the ASUC Senate chambers.

Organized less than six hours prior to the event by the ASUC External Affairs Vice President and the ASUC Academic Affairs VP,  the question and answer began with questions from campus senior Uma Krishnan, who moderated and spearheaded the event. Audience members, close to occupying all of the seats in the chambers, were then given the opportunity to pose questions. During the event, Hogg and Deitsch discussed the origins of their activism, their interactions with politicians and the role of younger voices in politics.

“I was amazed at how they were able to organize this (event) in such a short time,” said campus freshman Vivian Bui at the event. “Even though it’s a busy weekend, people were willing to come out and support something so important for our generation.”

As Hogg and Deitsch introduced themselves, they spoke about the origins of the #NeverAgain and March for Our Lives movements, which advocate for stricter gun control policies.

Though the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School incited a significant amount of student activism regarding gun control, Deitsch said the movement really began when 14 to 20 students convened on a living room floor and launched the #NeverAgain campaign, then eventually organized March for Our Lives, whose ideas have reached as far as scientists in Antarctica, according to Deitsch.

The activism Deitsch and Hogg have exhibited, however, has spanned beyond student-led initiatives. The two personally addressed politicians who were initially skeptical about the movement.

Hogg said that after all the duo had achieved politically, including doubling young-voter turnout in Florida, politicians began to realize they should be taken seriously.

“It didn’t matter how racist or xenophobic or hateful they were to others. They were still in power. … People who are choosing to not be active are choosing to let people die,” Deitsch said at the event, adding that mass shootings are a human issue, not just a political one. “If we held a moment of silence for every gun violence, Congress would never speak.”

Hogg and Deitsch also discussed the realities that students who returned to Stoneman Douglas High School have to face on a daily basis. Both survivors said their younger sisters were 14 years old at the time of the shooting and still attend the school. Hogg’s sister lost four of her friends that day, resulting in “an unconscionable cry that I hope none of you ever had to hear.”

Deitsch’s sister, on the other hand, spent her birthday under a desk with the fear of being shot. To this day, the speakers’ siblings and peers have to go through active-shooter training.

According to Deitsch and Hogg, their younger sisters, along with many of the other students at Stoneman Douglas High School, have benefitted from therapy and are still politically active. Students from the school take trips to Washington, D.C. and go door to door to get people to register to vote.

“Use your skills and put it toward what you care about,” Deitsch said. “Start marching. Start organizing.”

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Uma Krishnan is a campus junior. In fact, she is a campus senior. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the question-and-answer session was organized two days earlier. In fact, it was organized less than six hours earlier.
Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.
LAST UPDATED

JANUARY 28, 2019


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