QC students gain momentum for Wednesday walkout

Hundreds of Quad City Area students are expected to take part in a nationwide walkout against gun violence on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, including Davenport Central High School students, from left to right, Aubrey Young, Nia Walker, Maria Duran Sanchez, Branden Leon, and Lauren Hardy. Central student leaders Nina Lancolotti and Noah Neal are not pictured. (Noah Neal)
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) – Quad City Area students are harnessing the power of Twitter to gain momentum for a planned walkout Wednesday morning.

Students at local schools including Davenport Central are taking part in a nationwide protest which is urging stricter gun control laws and honoring those killed in last month’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A Twitter account started last month called “Quad City walk-out” tweeted to its followers on February 21, “So here’s the deal everyone ... MARCH 14th. 10:00am. Wear orange and bring posters to show your support. ANY AND ALL SCHOOLS . Safety begins with us!”

Within two days, the account with the handle @OutQuad had 200 followers.

A review of tweets from the account, which now has more than 300 followers, shows how students have used it to communicate protest details, refine their message, respond to criticism, and support each other.

Organization on this level was not available to previous generations of teens.

Ten years ago, in March 2008, Twitter was barely two years old and still largely unknown with only six million total users.

Today, its 300 million users still pales in comparison to Facebook’s 2.2 billion, but Twitter is clearly the preferred communication tool for Quad City student protesters who have not even bothered starting a Facebook page.

“[Student protest organizers] knew that a lot of kids locally are on social media and chose Twitter based on how we saw its influence around us and the fact that it had the younger audience as opposed to Facebook,” said Branden Leon, a junior at Davenport Central and one of the organizers of Wednesday’s student walkout in the Quad Cities.

“Twitter has also been a good contact with people like [the news media] with inquiries,” Leon said.

Exact protest messages can differ from student to student or group to group, and some are working to define their individual views ahead of Wednesday’s protest.

Twitter account @NorthWalkout, which identifies itself as the “official page of the walkout at Davenport North High School,” tweeted Monday, “We are not fighting the 2nd amendment or pushing gun control at all, we are advocating for more ALICE drills, teacher and counselor resources to treat those with mental health issues.”

QCA students have begun using the hashtag #QCWalkout for tweets about their protest.

At Davenport Central, Leon estimates 200 to 500 students will take part in Wednesday’s walkout.