UM Dearborn students join gun violence walkout

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
U-M Dearborn student Jacob Yesh-Brochstein, 22, addresses classmates Wednesday at a demonstration against gun violence.

About 150 University of Michigan-Dearborn students held a walkout Wednesday morning as part of a national demonstration to honor Parkland, Fla., high school massacre victims.

"We really want to make a change and this is the beginning of making a change in regards to gun violence and gun control," said Sara Alqaragholy , 20, of Dearborn. "Gun violence and gun control are definitely things we need to talk about, especially considering recent events."

Sara Alqaragholy, a U-M Dearborn student and activist, said the event was the start of making changes to stop gun violence in the country.

Alqaragholy, an Urban Studies major and a campus activist for environmental advocacy group and political action committee Next Gen America, was one of the U-M Dearborn event's organizers. She said she was pleased with the turnout for the demonstration, which lasted about 30 minutes and was held next to the school's Administration Building.

"It was beautiful," she said.

The National School Walkout was held at 10 a.m. and lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 students and staff members killed Feb. 14 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Jacob Yesh-Brochstein, 22, of Dearborn Heights, a student at the university and activist with its Amnesty International chapter who helped organize the walkout, said he was also pleased with the group who braved below freezing temperatures to show up for the event.

He said something has to be done about gun violence in the country. 

"We know and have known for a long time that government refusing to implement common-sense gun control has led to death," the Environmental Studies student said.

The university's students gathered in a plaza near the school's administration building to participate in the demonstration.

Their demonstration included a handful of speakers, including Alqaragholy and Yesh-Brochstein, as well as two moments of silence: one for the students killed in Parkland, Fla. and another for other students who have lost their lives to gun violence since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

Joshua Akers, a geography and urban and regional studies professor at the school, also spoke at the rally and praised students who attended.

"You're going to hear that students are apathetic," he said. "You're going to hear that you came out here just to skip class. You're going to hear that you don't know how to make your own decisions. But you all made a pretty powerful decision today and joined together.

"I'm overwhelmed by those of you who came out today," he said.

Wednesday's event on U-M Dearborn's campus was organized on campus by Women's March Youth Empower, Amnesty International and Nextgen America. It was one of nearly 3,000 walkouts planned nationally and more than 80 in Michigan. 

U-M Dearborn student Rebecca Grossman, 20, of Canton, said she felt compelled to attend the event.

"I think gun violence is a very big issue right now," she said. "And communities like ours have to be the ones to make the laws to help. Hopefully, the people who didn't come out will talk to those who did and maybe they at least get them thinking about it."

Located near the intersection of the Southfield Freeway and Michigan Avenue, U-M Dearborn has more than 9,100 students and nearly 570 faculty members.