On June 13th the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence Youth led and performed a protest in the Rhode Island General Assembly gallery. The protest was wildly successful with 100 student participants flooding the gallery with shirts with targets on their backs. Here are some stories on the action:

Obviously, behind the scenes was stressful, and a little touch and go because it’s finals season for high schoolers, most seniors have already graduated, and there aren’t many college students around. Also, we only had a little over a week to plan and coordinate with the student leaders. We honestly didn’t know how many students we could guarantee would show up, but we were blown away by the response. If Rhode Island students can pull that off in a week, it’s such a positive sign for the future of politics here. It’s critical that we keep investing in and supporting these committed students across the state who are planning and showing up to actions that keep up pressure on our elected officials. We also must help them to choose candidates who share the same values that they hold, so we can get changes in the ballot box.

This quote from the 2nd Amendment Group (NRA sponsored RI chapter) shows just how successful we were: “it is terrible to exploit the children to wear bullseyes and targets on their backs to support a bill which will not make our schools safer.” Even the NRA can’t believe how many students voluntarily showed up–absolutely no exploitation, there was not even an incentive given by us. Rather than being manipulators, on the contrary, we were equally stunned by the turnout. Not only is this quote laughable, but the fact that this news source chose to enlarge it on their website to give it extra prominence is shameful. It’s a false quote, there was categorically no exploitation and there was no challenging or questioning of the NRA stance in the article, so therefore it was published as stated fact. There are real, genuine, passionate, and awe-inspiring students who I have had the privilege to meet and work alongside across this state, who are deeply committed to passing common sense gun reform.

Another big event happened this week, the annual RI Pride Parade across downcity Providence. Students were invited to walk with Mom’s Demand Action alongside the Democrat coalition, including the Governor, Senator Whitehouse and Reps Langevin and Cicilline. Even the most cynical who might call it window dressing or reelection pandering, couldn’t deny fun, open, and inclusive it felt. After such a stressful push at the end of the State legislature session, it felt like a very good celebration alongside big allies.

On our watch this week, we mustn’t forget, there were three shootings, most likely both gang related although details are still emerging, and therefore systemic, non-episodic incidences of gun violence in our own state. Our inaction is tantamount to complicity and we, as citizens of this beautiful city and state, must work tirelessly in our jobs, and beyond if possible to see what we can do to help mitigate (at least one) of the root causes of gun violence, joblessness and poverty. Exploring ways that we can improve community dynamics so that we work better to facilitate opportunity and successful outreach programs is both a key part of this Youth Engagement Campaign, and should be a wider goal for Rhode Islanders in general.