KiKi Gilbert ’21 speaks at the March 14 rally.
Ethan Sterenfeld ’20

More than 400 students, faculty, and community members gathered in front of Frist Campus Center March 14 to rally against gun violence and advocate for stronger gun laws on a day of nationwide school walkouts and protests. Protesters held up signs, offered personal stories, and registered to vote.

“So many people came from all different aspects of campus,” said Diego Negron-Reichard ’18, co-founder of Princeton Advocates for Justice, which organized the event.  “The campus is fired up.”

Students shared experiences of gun violence in their own communities, such as the shooting of a school official or a friend. One speaker emphasized that the impacts of gun violence disproportionately affect black Americans.

Wednesday’s demonstration outside Frist Campus Center
Ethan Sterenfeld ’20
“The right to arms is not absolute,” Sarah Sakha ’18 said. “It does not trump the right to life.”

Speakers urged protesters to act by registering to vote and contacting their lawmakers about gun-control legislation. Ogulcan Bayol ’18 said he planned to actively bring up the issue with his peers following the event. “I plan on raising awareness and encouraging others to do the same,” Bayol said.

The Gun Safety Club, a student organization that says it promotes the safe use of firearms, interest in shooting events, and education about current issues, set up a table near the protest to offer an alternative viewpoint to those attending the rally. “It is up to us to represent in a civic manner a view that is underrepresented,” club member Chance Fletcher ’18  said.

Ben Bollinger ’21
Ethan Sterenfeld ’20
Both Neigron-Reichard and Senior Mikhael Smits ’18, president of the Gun Safety Club, said they felt supported by the University to express their views. Many protesters approached the Gun Safety Club table to question the members or present opposing views, but the atmosphere was respectful and cordial, Smits said.

“This is about as good as it gets in terms of civil discourse,” Smits said. “It’s a credit to the campus and the culture.”

Applicants seeking admission to Princeton are also able to peacefully protest without fear of affecting their chances for admission, as the University recently  announced that applicants who are disciplined for a principled protest at their high schools will still receive full consideration in the application process.

Students lined up after the protest to register to vote, and Princeton Against Gun Violence encouraged protesters to get involved further in its mission on the event Facebook page. “I hope the protest will actually change something,” said Alessandra Brown, a graduate student at the Woodrow Wilson School. “There’s always a chance [a shooting] could happen here.”