Chile student protest leaders send support to Florida gun campaigners
Florida school shooting Chile student protest leaders send support to Florida gun campaigners
Four leaders of 2011 movement send letter to young US activists urging them to fight idea that only adults should make the decisions
It began with a cl assroom walkout, grew into a nationwide protest movement led by high school and university students â" and culminated in radical reforms previously dismissed as unthinkable.
Six years later, the Chilean student leaders who overthrew the countryâs political establishment with street protests and legislative victories, have sent a message of support for the young Florida activists pushing for gun reform in the US.
In an open letter to the teenagers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, four former student leaders â" now elected politicians â" encouraged US students to fight back against the idea that âyoung people must let the adults make the decisionsâ.
âWe know it is not enough to ask for rights, as if it were a favor,â the letter said. âInstead we must demand them â" especially in cases like this where the failure to do so can mean the difference between life and death.â
Millions of students took to the streets of Chile in 2011 protests which electrified the country and eventually led to a string of sweeping reforms: hundreds of thousands of university students now study free of charge and interest rates on student loans have been slashed.
Four of the young protest leaders â" Gabriel Boric, Camilla Vallejo, Carol Kariola and Giorgio Jackson â" were recently elected to the national parliament, while a fifth, Jorge Sharp, is now mayor of the city of ValparaÃso.
âWhat we managed to do was change the political agenda and received political respect instead of being treated like schoolchildren who didnât know what they were talking about,â said Boric.
Boric is organizing support in Chile for the #NeverAgain movement lobbying to limit access to military-grade weapons like the AR-15 used in the Florida shooting.
âThe fight they are waging in the USA is all a bout justice,â said Boric, who now represents Chileâs most extreme southern region, Tierra del Fuego. âWhat the other side is asking for is the right to kill! It is difficult to understand.â
Giorgio Jackson, another former student leader-turned-congressman who also signed the letter, said that âunfortunately, you need a crisis to find the opportunity to change. The crisis here in Chile was the high student debt ratio [and] the overwhelming evidence that our educational system was spawning inequality.â
Jackson suggested that young adults often i gnore politics and leave public policy to what he called âthe professional politiciansâ â" an attitude that he fervently rejected.
âYoung people have an opportunity not only to demand political change but to build new public policies â¦ There are many areas in which youth can play a central role and not just watch from the bleachers.Young people canât change US gun law alone â" but they could tip the balance | Gary Younge Read more
âThat is something that the professional politicians have to get accustomed to â"young people are being empowered.â
Jackson acknowledged that there were differences between the two struggles: Chilean students faced violence from riot police, and several were killed in street clashes, but âwe never lived a fear like [young people in the US] are living,â he said.
Boric called on US politicians to recognize American student activists as a serious political force.
âThe only advice I could give â" and I do so humbly â" is to form a national organization, to unite students from different states and push so that their family and friends support them not just in the place where they are but across the entire country.â
- Florida school shooting
- US gun control
- US education
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