“How am I supposed to take a test with the same pencils I gripped in my hand in a desperate attempt to fight back against an intruder at my dorm where I am supposed to feel safe?” asked Asha Denny, a student studying Psychology at Michigan State University.
Following the mass shooting of Feb. 13 on the East Lansing campus, MSU students gathered on the Lansing Capitol building lawn Feb. 20 to take a stand against the act of violence.
The shooting, which took place on the northern part of campus in Berkey Hall and the MSU Union, left three students dead and five others injured. The three students killed were Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser, and Alexandria Verner.
Anderson, of Harper Woods, was just 19 years old when she passed away. Her family said she dreamt of becoming a doctor and had a love for photography. Anderson’s funeral took place at Zion Hope Baptist Church on Feb. 21, where family, friends, and others gathered to celebrate Anderson’s life.
Fraser, of Grosse Pointe, was 20 years old when he died on Feb. 13. Fraser was the president of MSU’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity chapter and studied business. Fraser was laid to rest on Feb. 18 at St Paul on the Lake Catholic Church. Attendees and MSU students shared that Fraser was a compassionate person.
Verner, of Clawson, was also only 20 years old when she was killed. Verner studied biology and excelled in athletics at Clawson High School. On Feb. 18, Verner’s funeral was held at Guardian Angels Catholic Church. Verner’s obituary stated she “will be dearly missed by all that knew and loved her.”
The protest was held starting at 1 p.m., hosted by Sit Down MSU, a community organization created after the shooting. The organization encouraged students to skip courses and show how the Spartan community feels following the tragedy.
The Capitol lawn was an ocean of students, parents, community members and media. The crowd shared their emotions concerning the shooting with rounds of applause after every speaker, encouraging their opposition to Monday’s events to be heard.
The protest featured guest speaker David Hogg, the founder of March For Our Lives. Hogg is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, which occurred on Feb. 14, 2018 – almost exactly five years before the shooting at MSU.
“We all know we all don’t agree on everything… As a generation though, if we are going to end this issue by working with other generations, by working across racial lines, religious lines and political lines as well, we will have to come together and focus on what we can agree on and make progress. “Cause ultimately, nobody wants gun violence to continue in this country,” said Hogg.
According to the Gun Violence Archive as of March 14, there have been 110 mass shootings reported in the United States so far this year.
Hogg addressed his frustrations with the American legislature, “I have a message for every single person who thinks we can’t do anything about gun violence: if every single state in this country had the same gun laws and gun death rates as Massachusetts, we would save over 30,000 lives a year. We would cut gun deaths in half.”
“I have been in a generation where lockdown and shootings are the norm. On Twitter, we see a school trend, and we instantly know the headline. I often wonder during our lockdown drills if it wasn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when,” said Denny.
Carl Austin Miller Grondin, the student body president for internal administration at MSU, was in attendance at the protest and addressed the crowd with his own account of finding out MSU had an active shooter on campus.
“There are 50,000 plus stories of the same night, and all revolve around fear, anger and sadness. All deserve to be heard and to all my fellow Spartans, continue to fight like hell,” said Grondin.
Several students spoke at the protest, some recited speeches, poems, and even a song performed by MSU freshman Jacinta Henry with her guitar.
Hogg used some of his time to speak on his experiences as an activist while searching for solutions to gun violence in the United States of America.
“I hear often times, as I’m sure you all have heard from older people, ‘wow it’s really- you know my generation really messed up and I’m glad to see you young people out there here to fix it…We need you [older generations] in this fight with us. We need you not to say ‘oh I’m hopeful because of you.’ We need you to come to us and say ‘how can I help you.”
“But I refuse to be another statistic in the American education system. And I refuse to wait till others come to realize that all the other victims, they were worthy of life. You guys are worthy of life,” said Denny.
Michigan State University is currently offering counseling services to MSU students. As of Feb. 23, 24/7 crisis counseling remains available to talk to a crisis counselor for anyone in need.
To find out more about counseling services being offered to students for support, resource information can be found on https://caps.msu.edu/emergency/index.html.