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FGCU Students Join National School Walkout Movement

Rachel Iacovone
FGCU students hold signs on the library lawn during the national school walkout.

Students across the nation walked out to protest gun violence in solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday morning, including some on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University.

Seventy-five FGCU students and faculty members gathered on the library lawn one month after the school shooting in Parkland, which took the lives of 17 people and injured another 15.

Sissi Lopez Diaz Jensen is a political science major at FGCU. She helped organize the event with the Office of Multicultural and Leadership Development.

Lopez Diaz Jensen said the walkout was mainly to honor victims and survivors, but it also aimed to shed light on Gov. Rick Scott’s new school safety bill and raise awareness for March For Our Lives — a gun control demonstration scheduled to take place later this month in Washington, D.C.

“It’s no lie that we’re in a conservative area where the Second Amendment is something that is enshrined by many," Lopez Diaz Jensen said. "However, we can’t let that override the protection of students and their pursuit of an education and a life, so I’m hoping that this walkout kind of inspired other students to continue to take initiative even if they live in areas where there are a lot of people that don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing.”

In the last month, the issue of gun control overshadowed Florida’s legislative session and dominated national political conversations. However, students from all backgrounds met in the middle on the campus of FGCU.

Max Ortengren is a member of College Republicans and the Libertarian club on campus, Eagles for Liberty.

He said he laments the tragedy, but the focus should not be on guns.

“It’s not just a gun issue," Ortengren said. "There are other ways we can go about securing our schools and making sure this doesn’t happen again. This is not a gun issue. This is a lack of government upholding the existing laws.”

Credit Rachel Iacovone / WGCU
Student organizer Sissi Lopez Diaz Jensen speaks with College Republicans and Eagles For Liberty member Max Ortengren after the walkout on the FGCU library lawn.

Ortengren held a sign that read, “We trusted you. You let us down.”

He said his message was to the FBI and local governments, who he felt should have taken action when they were warned about the shooter’s behavioral patterns.

“We need to hold our government to a higher level of scrutiny because, if these people that are sworn to protect and serve us are not doing the protecting or the serving, we have to defend ourselves," Ortengren said. "That’s why the Second Amendment was founded — for personal defense and also defense against a tyrannical government.”