Fifty Belmont students sat silently in front of the fountain during convocation hour in an act of solidarity with the victims of the Parkland High School shooting in February.
The demonstration — organized by students Adriel Morton and Anna Mirlisena — was scheduled in coordination with National Walkout Day, the nationwide protest against gun violence in the United States, coordinated by high school and college students.
For 17 minutes, the Belmont demonstrators sat in silent reflection in front of 17 pairs of shoes — symbolic of the 17 lives lost during the Parkland shooting.
For Morton, the demonstration was not an act of protest, but a memorial.
“I think the heart behind it is not to make it a political issue of protesting against the NRA or tearing people down who own guns,” she said. “We really wanted today to be about the students and to be about the 17 lives that were lost, and whatever politics come behind that will follow, but today’s focus was about the kids and their families.”
Morton was happy with the turnout, and thought it was reflective of the way Belmont students value advocacy.
“There’s a huge focus on advocacy at Belmont, which is what I’ve noticed in my studies here,” she said. “And I think the reason we were able to get such a good turnout on such short notice is because of that focus on advocacy and social awareness.”
Junior Claudia Christensen woke up early and drove from her off-campus residence to attend the demonstration.
Christensen shares a personal connection to the Parkland shooting — her cousin made it out alive.
“It was just really scary,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people say it could be your daughter or your sister — it doesn’t matter because it’s a person. We are all brothers and sisters, it shouldn’t matter whether or not it’s someone you know.”
“I think an important thing to learn from this is that you shouldn’t wait until it affects you to take action.”