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MSU students fill steps of Capitol, protesting gun violence

February 15, 2023
<p>Students surround psychology junior Maya Manuel as she spoke at the Michigan Capitol Building on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 - two days after the mass shooting in Michigan State University’s north campus. Students detailed their experiences and speakers called for legislative action to prevent future tragedy.</p>

Students surround psychology junior Maya Manuel as she spoke at the Michigan Capitol Building on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 - two days after the mass shooting in Michigan State University’s north campus. Students detailed their experiences and speakers called for legislative action to prevent future tragedy.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Michigan State University students holding signs saying “It could’ve been me,” “Spartan Strong,” “This isn’t recess, we shouldn’t have to hide,” and more filled the steps of the Lansing Capitol building. All survivors of another mass shooting.

On February 15, MSU students and community members alike gathered at the Capitol for the "Enough Is Enough" sit-down to honor and protest the students who died on the mass shooting of Feb. 13. 

Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, President Jo Kovach was across the street from Berkey Hall in the Spartan Housing Cooperative office at the time of the shooting. After receiving a call from ASMSU Vice President for Internal Administration Carl Austin Miller Grondin who said something is happening.

Kovach tried to call anyone they could to get any information and was told to shelter immediately. They went to the back office in a motion censored light room and had to stay completely still. 

“It was four hours with 12 people I don’t know very well trying to stay completely still in a room right across from where the shooting started hearing so much misinformation and trying to gather from the police scanner,” Kovach said.

Kovach said they hope the protest allows for everyone to start coming back together as a community and starting to ask for any change MSU students want, anything to make them feel safe on campus again, anything to allow people to take back their home.

Many student speakers took to the podium sharing experiences from Monday night. Among them was psychology junior Maya Manuel, who organized the whole event.

Manuel said she is not a public speaker, just someone who is angry and wants change. She planned the event thinking that only a few people would show up. She said she wanted to convey to politicians the anger she felt from that night. 

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Legislators sit on the ground, looking at Michigan State students as they protest gun violence on Feb. 15, 2023 at the Michigan State Capitol, two days after the mass shooting in MSU's North Neighborhood.

“Before you act like you understand us, please take a moment to sit with us, and to listen to us and to be with us because you won’t be us, you haven’t been us, and hopefully soon you’ll never be us,” she said.

Manuel had politicians move to face the students on the steps. To stand and sit in front of them and see their faces.

“But my vote won’t matter if you guys don’t do anything about me putting you there,” Manuel said to the politicians in attendance. “You need to talk to your peers, you need to help your peers understand our pain. Because I know you can’t empathize, you can sympathize.”

Kayla S. a 19 year old student at MSU went up to the podium, she lives on campus in Mason Hall and was there during the shooting.

“There is one building that separates me from Berkey, I was right there in the crossfire,” Kayla said. “I was in my dorm by myself. I had to barricade myself in my dorm by pushing a dresser in front of my door locking it and dropping to my knees and praying that I was not going to die.”

She said she kept receiving phone call after phone call from people asking if she was okay. People she hadn’t heard from in years. People that she didn’t even know they were checking up on her because they knew she went to MSU. 

Kayla said she was hiding inside her closet with a pocket knife in her hand for two hours.

“I thought once I graduated high school, I would be safe,” Kayla said. “I wouldn't be in a position where I would ever have to experience this. And then it happened. I felt how everybody during Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, I felt everything they felt."

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Michigan State students sit on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol protesting gun violence on Feb. 15, 2023, two days after the mass shooting in MSU's North Neighborhood.

History freshman Cassia Bennett and human biology freshman Madalyn Roberts were together in a study room on the second floor of the MSU library, locked and barricaded in. 

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Roberts said she felt horrible. While shots were never reported at the library, Roberts said it felt like the gunshots were "everywhere and always getting closer to us."

"We always felt like we were next," she said.

“We know we can’t change what happened but we’re begging for anything you know, anything to change, (there’s) been decades of this, been dozens a year of shootings alone,” Bennett said.

Bennett and Roberts said they were in the study room with a student who had been going through her second mass shooting. In a room of 10 students, one had already dealt with this.

Bennett and Roberts both said they felt feelings of helplessness for hours.

“And we were unsafe on campus for almost five hours and the way that that’s not being fully portrayed is very upsetting,” Roberts said.

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Michigan State students sit on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol protesting gun violence on Feb. 15, 2023, two days after the mass shooting in MSU's North Neighborhood.

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