Dozens of students gathered in the University Forum Tuesday evening to silently sit, meditate and pray in solidarity with Parkland, Fla., to honor the lives lost and peacefully promote gun control.

On Feb. 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., open-fired, killing seventeen people.

UR Zen, the Buddhist meditation group within the chaplaincy, spent a week and a half organizing the Sunset Sit-In. Empty cushions were spread across the forum so passersby could stop and sit as they pleased.

The event consisted of two 25-minute sits and a candlelight vigil and aimed to create an atmosphere where members of the UR community could come together and silently express their mutual feelings regarding the mass shooting. 

During the candlelight vigil, the names and ages of all the Parkland victims were read aloud, followed by a moment of silence.

The sit-in was planned after students involved with UR Zen realized there was no discussion happening on campus about Parkland.

“We’re trying to promote this idea of sitting down and being compassionate and being aware of yourself, but also the idea that we need to change,” Harleen Bal, senior and student leader of UR Zen, said.

Bal emphasized the power of silence during this time. 

“Something in the system has to change for gun control and gun violence,” she said. “I know that the idea of silence is kind of counterintuitive when it comes to social activism, but a lot of times, silence also has a great magnitude. It has a power that amplifies and echoes in its own way.”

Bal said she hoped the silence would spur people to catalyze change on the UR campus and push them to think about what needs to be done to advocate for gun control.

The sit-in took place one day after the Office of Undergraduate Admission released a statement on Twitter addressing the shooting in Parkland and how students nationwide are protesting gun violence.according to the statement.Prospective students who participate in peaceful protests will not be affected negatively in any way in the UR admission process, 

Vishwesh Mehta, senior, attended the sit-in because he is concerned about the number of shootings that have happened so far this year, he said. 

Mehta thinks there needs to be a more direct conversation about the gun-control debate in the U.S., and he believes this sit-in will spark more events where students can unite and protest in peace, he said.

“To a lot of people, it has become just another shooting, and that’s why someone needs to do something about it, so that people will know it as real life,” Mehta said. “Doing something like this kind of makes more people look at the event after it has passed, and keep the conversation going.”

The element of silence was a major objective of the event. There were informational flyers answering questions for anyone who did not know what the sit-in was, andto maintain the silence throughout it.

“We are constantly surrounded by activity and noise, and I think taking that moment of silence might inspire some sort of inner reflection in people,” Bal said. “I think people wanted to take a moment and think about the loss of all these kids and faculty from that school, and all the other schools.”

Kevin Heffernan, the Buddhist campus minister, said he believed the UR community could make an effort to contribute to the futures of the Parkland students by not forgetting them and staying in touch with their brave responses.

“They are putting themselves out there in the midst of their grief and their loss — putting themselves out there for the benefit of all of us,” Heffernan said. “We should remember them and we should keep in touch with what they’re doing because they are speaking for all of us.”

Contact news writer Jasmine Fernandez at jasmine.fernandez@richmond.edu. 

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