Articles and Photos by Alejandro Alvarez
Video by Ford Fischer
Update 10:30 p.m.: Capitol Police confirm eight people were charged under DC code for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.” According to organizer Alex Dubinsky, all eight – including three minors – have been released. This article has been updated.
Eight students were arrested protesting for gun control outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Washington office on Wednesday.
A group of about one dozen DC-area high school and college students sat-in on McConnell’s office in the Russell Senate office building, blocking access to his office for about fifteen minutes before Capitol Police cleared the area and arrested eight people engaging in civil disobedience following orders to disperse.
It was the latest youth-led action in Washington over the issue, coming almost a month after 17 students and teachers were killed in class at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A student-organized walkout from DC-area public schools two weeks agofeatured thousands marching on the Capitol and White House demanding Congress pass “common sense gun reform” including restrictions on certain gun sales and comprehensive background checks.
Wednesday’s sit-in embraced a similar message. “The organizers have focused on three reforms that they believe the legislature should enact,” read a press statement by Alex Dubinsky, a student at the University of Maryland who spearheaded the sit-in. The policy changes he sought: “universal background checks, prohibiting domestic abusers from obtaining firearms, and an assault weapons ban.”
“After the tragedy in Parkland, students across the country have stood up and said ‘enough’. We are sick of the cycle of inaction after mass shootings. Thoughts and prayers are not enough,” said Dubinsky. “We stand with the victims and students in Parkland, and we are demanding action. This protest demonstrates our relentless determination to pass gun reform, and we will not stop until we are satisfied.”
As police gathered nearby with plastic zip ties, Dubinsky asked fellow protesters to share their own reasons for being there. “I’m tired of seeing my peers gunned down and nothing being done about it, year after year,” said a young woman, “enough is enough, we need to stop the madness.” While police delivered three warnings, protesters read out the date and death toll of mass shootings including Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and Las Vegas.
Like previous civil disobedience actions on Capitol Hill, those arrested will be fined a $50post-and-forfeit resulting in immediate release with a “full and final” resolution of charges. Wednesday’s protesters, together with other actions of a similar nature, have been cited under Washington city code for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” in a public or private building.
I just asked the organizer. Of 8 arrested, all got out fine, and the minors (three) he believes weren't charged. They were already expected to take longer to be released. pic.twitter.com/SREsNiW2u9
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) March 8, 2018
Thousands are expected to head to Washington for the March for Our Lives on March 24, organized by Stoneman Douglas High School students. Following that event, two nationwide student walkouts in April are seeking to keep the pressure on Congress in the gun control debate.