First Person

A 12-Year-Old Protester's Interview Went Viral. Here's His Story

—Kirk Slocum, protesting with his father, Brian Slocum, speaks with MSNBC's Mariana Atencio during the #NationalSchoolWalkout in Washington on March 14.
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This week, I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue with my friends as we all cheered and hollered, "End gun violence, no more silence!" I went to the student walkout in Washington on March 14. Students from all over Montgomery County in Maryland and Washington came out to the White House and the Capitol to march for gun control policies and new bans and laws.

At first, my parents said I could not go. I had already gotten caught up in a small school walkout back in February right after the tragic Parkland shooting. It ended badly. A couple of friends and I got lost, and it ended up with me just missing school. I got an "unexcused absence" and got no credit for the work I missed.

The night before the #NationalSchoolWalkout, my dad asked me why I wanted to go to this event. I explained to him that it meant a lot to me to be able to actively be a part of a walkout for gun control and that it would be an amazing and crucial experience to be able to be a part of group activism towards gun control. Also to physically meet the governors and senators that were supporting this movement.

Editor's Note

Among the many compelling moments from the nationwide school walkout earlier this week—in which tens of thousands of students across the country left their classrooms to protest gun violence and memorialize lost peers—was an interview with a 12-year-old in Washington captured on live TV.

"By myself, I don't think I have the power. But together with all these people here, I think we can make a change," 7th grader Kirk Slocum told MSNBC's Mariana Atencio while marching toward the U.S. Capitol.

The video clip gained traction quickly, picking up more than 18,000 likes on Twitter and landing on both the Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. ("My man!" said a clearly impressed Noah.)

Education Week Teacher tracked Kirk down and asked if he'd be willing to write something about his experience participating in the walkout. (Full disclosure: Kirk's mother and Assistant Managing Editor Liana Loewus are cousins.)

Eventually, I got my parents to change their minds. The next morning my dad and I walked down to our local community center and met up with some of my other friends and the rest of the people from my school who were going to the student walkout. We, the students, had a goal for our voices to be heard and for change to come with it. We arrived at the White House and started chanting.

As 10 a.m. came around, everyone turned their backs to the White House and stayed in silence for 17 minutes for the 17 people that died in the school shooting. After those 17 minutes, all the students got up and started chanting again. I was constantly screaming chants such as, "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, the NRA (National Rifle Association) has got to go!" and "Shame!" towards the White House, Congress-people, and the NRA. It was very overwhelming. It was packed, it was cold, but I was so happy to be there. It was so amazing to be able to connect and fight with other people who I didn't even know to accomplish a goal.

As we walked down to the Capitol, a woman from MSNBC came to interview me. My dad and I explained why we were there that day to support gun control. After, I explained that I could not change laws and policy alone, but together the students could. It was so crucial to have that experience, and it pains me that teachers were preventing students from coming to these rallies because they are so important. The group eventually made its way to the Capitol where we got to meet senators who supported gun control.

"It was so amazing to be able to connect and fight with other people who I didn't even know to accomplish a goal."

I also got to shake hands with Senator Elizabeth Warren, which was very cool. On the way back home, my friends were telling me how my interview went viral, and it was all over social media and the news. When I got home, I went straight to my computer to look at the comments from the post of my interview on Twitter. There were a few hate comments, but that will happen. But there were so many loving comments to me and to all students. Those comments warmed my heart and made me a bit teary.

Although I was in an interview that went viral, and although my friends and I were on national television, the reason I came was to fight for change. Change will come. It was a truly remarkable experience, and I will remember it forever. And remember, America is a democracy that works for the people. The people want gun control!

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