Massachusetts Youth Activism Collective leads students in walkout to protest gun violence

Amelia Sinclair, Assistant News Editor

Hundreds of ARHS students gathered outside the rotunda to protest gun violence in America on Thursday, May 26.

Led by junior Noah LaBelle, the Massachusetts’ Youth Activism Collective held a walkout from 9:40-10:01 a.m. to protest gun violence and honor the victims of the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

LaBelle planned the 21 minute-long walkout in light of the recent mass shootings making headlines across America.

“It’s mind boggling that [mass shootings] can keep happening everywhere,” LaBelle said. “Ten days before Uvalde, we saw 10 people in Buffalo get killed simply because they’re African American at a grocery store.“

During the walkout after the initial congregation, LaBelle read aloud the poem “No Man is an Island” by John Donne to the students and faculty.

This was soon followed by other collective members, reading the names of the casualties at Robb Elementary School, taking 21 seconds of silence following each name. Afterwards, a speech was given by junior Rajat Lakkapragada delivering a call to action for students to continue to share their voices and petition for change.

“The best possible outcome [of the walkout] would be an increase in initiatives to promote student voice, decision making and making changes,” LaBelle said. “I founded this group called the Massachusetts Youth Activism Collective with that exact purpose. It’s meant to give students a voice to be the change they want to see in the world.”

According to Principal Sean Bevan’s email to parents shortly after the demonstration, the collective was in touch with him prior to the walkout allowing him to prepare with staff accordingly. Bevan was proud to attend the walkout and praised the student-leaders for their initiative.

I have been a principal for more than a decade, and I sometimes have the privilege of seeing students participate in powerful civic action and engagement, which is what I observed today,” Bevan wrote in his email. “The protest was well organized and conducted safely. At the end, the organizers discussed ways they plan to impact change, including by contacting lawmakers to strengthen gun laws to prevent future school shootings.”

Sophomore Sam Sutton attended the peaceful protest with hopes that efforts such as this would be mirrored throughout the country and spark some needed change.

“Gun violence in school is really not okay and we all need to be out here to stand up against it,” Sutton said.

LaBelle has similar hopes and urges students to not let this walkout be the entirety of their actions. He stressed that students need to continue to contact members of legislature and share their voices in order for change to be made.

“We just need people to not let this be a one-time thing, not let this be a symbolic measure where people are just exiting class for 21 minutes,” LaBelle said. “It’s really important that everyone goes beyond this and makes an active effort to promote policy change, talk to legislators, and do everything we can to make sure this never happens again.”