Students Demand Action stand against gun violence

Members of Students Demand Action express the importance of gun violence awareness and the rise of hate crimes against the AAPI community.

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Image of SDA members: Victoria Murdock (Advocacy Lead), Alisa Gonzalez (President) and Krissa De Vera (Membership/Outreach Lead)

Darlene Antoine, Features Editor

Students Demand Action (SDA) wants a future free of gun violence.

Florida Atlantic University has a collegiate chapter of the national student-led grassroots organization, Students Demand Action, started by President Alisa Gonzalez last August.

President Gonzalez, Advocacy Lead Victoria Murdock, and Membership and Outreach Lead Krissa De Vera have advocated to turn outrage into action and work toward a future free of gun violence.

The rise in anti-Asian attacks began in the early days of the pandemic and the wave of xenophobia and violence has continued to escalate since then. Most notably, the Atlanta Spa shooting of eight people, which took the lives of six women of Asian descent and stirred outrage and fear in the Asian-American community.

When asked about the recent increase in hate crimes directed to the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities across the country, and how the club has responded due to their mission of anti-gun violence Gonzalez asserted that the club is not only meant to be a place of safety but she hopes that actionable change comes from policymakers.

“As an organization, we provide a safe and inclusive place for members of all different backgrounds and demographics to voice their concerns and share their experiences. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a rise in hate crimes directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Community,” Gonzalez said. “Our response to the recent increase in Asian hate crimes across the country is that our lawmakers owe us more than thoughts and prayers, they owe us action and change. As we continue the work of fighting gun violence and hate crimes, we grieve for the victims and their families, and are holding them and the entire AAPI community in our hearts.”

StopAAPI Hate was launched by the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), the Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University launched the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center on March 19, 2020.

The organization recently conducted a national report that detailed hate incidents against AAPI individuals which said: Verbal harassment (68.1%) and shunning (20.5%) (i.e., the deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans) make up the two largest proportions of the total incidents reported. Women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.

The report covers the 3,795 incidents received by the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021.

De Vera expressed a similar sentiment to Gonzalez on the increased violence but shared her response to the increase in hate crimes as a member of the Asian American community.

“As an Asian American, seeing the recent attacks and violence against members of the Asian community, particularly towards the elderly, was disheartening and heartbreaking. As a member of Students Demand, I’m able to reach out to the club members and help make them feel comfortable and heard, especially during troubling and difficult times like this,” De Vera said.

February 2020: FAU NOW & Palm Beach SDA General Body Meeting Collaboration. After this Collaboration SDA started a collegiate chapter at FAU! ***PRE-COVID***

The club not only serves as a place to make connections in the university community but also as a way for students to learn more about issues of gun violence.

“Being an organization that works with gun violence prevention on such a diverse campus, we are hyper-aware of different student backgrounds and the possibility that they may come from a neighborhood stricken by gun violence or have experienced gun violence in some sense. Being on a college campus where students enrich themselves with knowledge, we consider our organization a resource to learn about issues impacting marginalized communities and people who are affected by gun violence,” Murdock said.

The SDA works alongside March for Our Lives to promote the passing of legislation recommended by gun sense such as the HR8 Bill which will require background checks on all gun sales. They also plan to work with Student Government to write up legislation that will ensure that the FAU campus promotes gun violence prevention and safety for all students on campus.

Club members Raquel Perry and Eshaine Whitehead expressed that while the club focuses on raising awareness, it also aims to keep students educated and informed on the process of gun legislation and activism efforts.

“This club has helped me stay informed about serious political issues that affect my daily life and the lives of others. I have truly understood what it means to be an activist and how to apply activism in my everyday life,” Perry said.

SDA also intends to work with Student Government to write up legislation that will ensure that the FAU campus promotes gun violence prevention and safety of all students on campus.

November 3rd, 2020: Tabling at a Voting Location

Whitehead explained that the campus chapter welcomes students who are searching for an opportunity to be active members of the community or simply be open to making genuine friendships in the club.

Currently, the club is working on having conversations with local representatives in a panel called “Congressional Convos,” encouraging students to register to vote, testifying for or against gun laws, and collaborating on, planning, and coordinating events and meetings.

“Being a part of such a close community of people – that is, everyone is not just friendly but kind and genuine! Whether you joined from the start or are a new addition, SDA welcomes all its members and everyone they interact with warmth and gratitude. The opportunities to learn and advocate for important issues have opened so many doors for me,” Whitehead said.

To join as a member of Students Demand FAU students can add the club on Owl Central and follow events hosted by the organization on Instagram @studentsdemandfau.

Darlene Antoine is the Features Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]