Medical and Charles River Campus Groups Join in National School Walkout Yesterday

Part of countrywide school demonstrations after last month’s Florida shootings

resize-18-1171-GUNSWALK-006Some Medical Campus ralliers wore doctors’ coats, a reminder of gun victims they treat, others donned orange, the color of the national walkout against gun violence. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi.

Students and staff on both BU campuses joined the National School Walkout yesterday to protest gun violence, four weeks to the day after a gunman murdered 17 people at a Florida high school.

At least 300 people on the Medical Campus, some braced against freezing temperatures with just their white lab coats, crowded together off Talbot Green. Planned by students at the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, the rally, like those at more than 2,500 middle and high schools and some universities across the country, lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the students and teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

On the Charles River Campus, the walkout drew several dozen people to gather on Marsh Plaza.

“A national movement has started,” declared Medical Campus keynote speaker Eileen Costello, a MED clinical professor of pediatrics and chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, MED’s affiliated hospital. “I speak for many pediatricians at Boston Medical Center and across the nation who are saying: Stop this now.

“How can members of Congress listen more to the NRA than to the voices of our children?” she asked. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes most suggestions for tightening gun safety laws. “We must stand with these students, our children, and our patients and call for laws that will keep automatic weapons of mass destruction out of civilian hands.”

“We call upon our national, state, and local leaders to take swift and decisive action,” Rebecca Webb (MED’20), one of the rally’s organizers, told the crowd.

Before the rally, BU Today spoke to several people attending the walkout. Co-organizer Aldina Mesic (SPH’18), a research study assistant at SPH, said that she was optimistic that the Florida tragedy, unlike previous mass shootings, would spur action against gun violence.

Students on Marsh Plaza participating in the national walkout protesting gun violence.

Students on Marsh Plaza were among demonstrators at more than 2,500 schools seeking tighter gun safety laws. Photo by Cydney Scott.

She cited Florida’s just-passed gun reforms, which include raising the allowable age for gun purchases to 21, something the NRA opposes, as well as an NRA-backed provision to arm school personnel.

“There’s clearly momentum around the country to address it in a number of ways,” Mesic said. “I do think that something will change and something will come of this.”

Co-organizer Anita Knopov (MED’19) voiced similar optimism. “The national dialogue has changed since the Parkland shooting,” she said. “We’ve seen stores distancing themselves from the NRA” by discontinuing discounts and other perks they’d offered to NRA members.

“And we’ve seen individual companies making new rules about the age of…buying a gun,” Mesic added. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have raised the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 since the Florida shooting.

“We just want to move it from just talking about thoughts and prayers…and expecting our national policymakers to actually do something to address the gun violence in this country,” she said.

Nicole Jeter (SPH’19) took time off from her maternal and child health class to attend the rally because “I have cousins and family that are in elementary schools, and I’ve seen the effect that it [news of violence] has on those children.” The large national walkout, she said, would have the “impact of everyone coming together to voice their opinions and to show the importance of working together.”

“Our MED faculty and students who rotate through our very busy emergency room at BMC see the toll that guns take every day in Boston,” said Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus.

“Students have taken the lead on this issue, starting with Florida, and now across the United States. I see no more effective group out there right now. Our generation has not succeeded. Maybe they can.”

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old alleged Stoneman Douglas High School gunman, is facing the death penalty if convicted. His lawyers, who have offered a guilty plea in exchange for a life prison sentence, are expected to raise mental health issues to try to save his life. Cruz was a former student at the school where he went on a rampage on Valentine’s Day.

Author, Rich Barlow can be reached at