Students Demand Action honors Uvalde shooting victims, rallies for gun violence prevention


Ava Mandoli/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg sophomores Mirabella Johnson and Lily Cohen founded NU’s chapter of Students Demand Action last quarter. SDA held a rally Tuesday to honor victims from the Uvalde, Texas school shooting.

Maia Pandey, Campus Editor

Content warning: this story contains mentions of gun violence.

Northwestern’s chapter of Students Demand Action hosted a rally Tuesday to honor the victims of the Uvalde, Texas shooting and raise awareness and action around gun violence prevention.

On May 24, a shooter opened fire on Robb Elementary School and killed two teachers and 19 children. The incident marked one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history.

“After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, when I was 10 years old — the same age as the majority of Uvalde’s victims — calls to put an end to the senseless violence echoed,” the group’s co-founder Lily Cohen said at the rally. “Yet, here we are 10 years later, still straining our voices to shout that enough is enough.”

Weinberg sophomores Cohen and Mirabella Johnson founded NU’s chapter of SDA last quarter, as part of the national advocacy group fighting gun violence alongside Everytown for Gun Safety. After an opening speech, Cohen and Johnson read the names and ages of the 21 victims and attendees observed a moment of silence.

The group also put up flyers around The Rock with QR codes linking to instructions for how community members can contact their Congressional representatives and advocate for gun violence legislation.

In their speech, Johnson and Cohen noted that more than 200 mass shootings have already occurred in the U.S. this year, including nearly 30 school shootings. Ahead of the November midterm elections, Cohen said electing candidates in favor of gun violence prevention legislation is a priority.

The group plans to host canvassing, letter writing and phone banking sessions in the upcoming months, Cohen told The Daily. SDA will also team up with Winnetka’s New Trier High School and local chapter of Moms Demand Action to host a 5k walk and run Sunday — following National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday. 

“I think a lot of people do genuinely care about (gun violence prevention), but it’s hard to take that first step and acknowledge that each of us can potentially be affected by it, and that each of us has the power to make a difference,” Cohen said.

Johnson said she became involved in advocacy against gun violence following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Especially among students who are part of the “lockdown generation,” Johnson said she hopes people move beyond accepting the frequency of gun violence.

Gun violence disproportionately affects communities of marginalized identities, including people of color and LGBTQ+ people, Johnson said. The group plans to hold elected officials as well as each other accountable to continued advocacy, she added.

“A lot of people do a great job of showing support for communities in the first couple of days this happens and saying, ‘we need to change something,’” Johnson said. “But we need that continual rallying and not just after a mass shooting — we need it throughout the year.”

Medill sophomore Jake Mozarsky, a member of SDA, said he often sees people posting about gun violence prevention on social media directly following tragedies, but the issue soon loses traction. Mozarsky said he became passionate about gun violence prevention after losing two friends in the Parkland shooting.

Though the group’s name centers on “demanding” action, Mozarsky said he hopes the chapter can break the cycle of inaction. Any action from hosting a rally to voting an official in favor of gun violence prevention into office is meaningful, he said.

“Awareness is a good start, but it’s not enough,” Mozarsky said. “Even if you have not been personally affected, you (may) know someone that has been personally affected. Be the change that you want to see and come out to these things — we’re strongest when we’re together.”

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Twitter: @maiapandey

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