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Central Ohio High School Students Plan Lie-In at Statehouse in Support of Gun Reform

Melat Eskender Melat Eskender Central Ohio High School Students Plan Lie-In at Statehouse in Support of Gun ReformPhoto via Flickr.
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*Editor’s note: Students’ names have been omitted for the safety of those involved.

On April 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., students from across Ohio will be gathering for a lie-in and protest at the Ohio Statehouse. The event was organized by State of Ohio Youth Activists (SOYA), an activist organization formed by high school students.

This protest will be the first action taken by SOYA. The group consists of 15 high schools primarily from the Central Ohio region, but spans its reach to schools in Cincinnati and Logan. The group wants to ensure the gun-reform movement initiated by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teens remains student-led and active.

“Upon hearing of the tragedy in Parkland and witnessing the incredible strength of the survivors, we were inspired to continue what they started in our own communities,” said one student, who’s a member of SOYA and a junior at Worthington Kilbourne High School.

These students organized walkouts at their respective high schools on March 14, and according to those there, saw with their own eyes “the power of our generation to change the course of history.” Thousands of walkouts occurred nationwide on March 14, a month after Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and faculty members at MSD High School.

These students met with one another through social media while planning their walkouts and from there, formed SOYA. They strongly believe that if this grassroots movement continues, they will see an end to gun violence in the U.S. Their mission statement, “empower youth to fight for a safer tomorrow,” reflects this sentiment.

“The issue of gun violence is a multifaceted one and must be approached from all angles. This is not just about passing one piece of legislation or electing one person into office: it is about changing the climate in our communities to bring about larger-scale political and cultural change,” states their press release located on their website.

SOYA’s platform describes an intersectional approach to ending gun violence. Their goals include an end to police brutality, safety in schools, public research on gun violence through the CDC and more. Their platform also lists gun-safe laws their organization supports varying from universal background checks to a ban on assault-style weapons.

One SOYA member and senior at Bexley High School supports safety in schools, but also seeks to bring statewide attention to how gun violence disproportionately affects minority communities.

“Gun violence is an issue that exists beyond just school shootings. Members of our communities experience issues of gun violence, and these issues disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. We are standing up now to fight for the communities that haven’t been given a voice,” said the Bexley High School student.

The group describes themselves as a progressive organization whose purpose is to create a statewide body of student activists that can encourage and organize political action. Currently, their focus is on gun reform, but they hope to expand the types of issues they address in the future.

“I believe in the importance of youth empowerment and using our voices to shape the future as we want to see it…all of us leaders are students, we work and do extracurriculars, but we’re still here standing up and speaking out. We encourage all students to join us,” said a SOYA member and senior of Olentangy Orange High School.

Check out SOYA’s website at stateofohioyouthactivists.wordpress.com for more information on the details of their protest and how to get involved.

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