Hundreds of teenagers crouched under desks and ran for their lives from the classrooms of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14. Seventeen students and staff lost their lives in the mass shooting.
On Wednesday morning, the survivors, joined by tens of thousands of students across the US in their respective schools, walked out of their classrooms to demand that action be taken against gun violence. The mass protest, called the National Student Walkout, was held at 10 am in each time zone for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the Parkland shooting victims.
“We refuse to learn in fear. We reject turning our schools into prisons. We will accept nothing less than comprehensive gun control,” said Matthew Post, a student of Sherwood High School in Maryland, in a passionate speech in the video above. “Their right to own an assault rifle does not outweigh our right to live...The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now, and if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out.”
Elisabeth Downing, a senior at Terre Haute North Vigo High School in Indiana told NBC, “No matter what you decide the action to be, we just want action. We’re tired of thoughts and prayers, and we’re ready to finally do something.”
The students marched to highlight the government’s inaction against gun violence, and demanded three key actions from Congress: ban assault weapons, demand universal background checks before gun sales, and pass a gun violence restraining order law that will allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behaviour.
“We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?” said Kaylee Tyner, a 16-year-old junior at Columbine High School outside Denver, where 13 people were killed in 1999. “Why does this keep happening?” she told The New York Times.
Not every school or its authorities gave a green light to the march. Some threatened disciplinary action for defaulters. Students, however, persisted. In a school in Atlanta, where students weren’t allowed to leave the building, they “took a knee” in the hallway to pay their respects. At another school in California, students broke through the locked gate.
The marches varied in size, too. In some parts of the country, thousands of students joined forces for the cause. In several schools, however, teachers, parents, staff and even politicians like Bernie Sanders (video below) and the media joined the students in demanding action against gun violence and the NRA.
According to NBC, an estimated 185,000 people in 50 states were expected to join the walkout, with around 3,100 schools planning to participate. But then, there were also solo protestors like Justin Blackman and Rosa Rodriguez (videos below), who were alone in walking out of their respective schools.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was among a handful of Democratic lawmakers to greet student speakers, told MSNBC, “The NRA has held Congress hostage for so many years now. These young people are here to set us free.”
Two more nationwide protests are set to take place on March 24 and on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
The National Rifle Association, which was one of the the primary targets of the walkout, apart from Congress, posted its response on Twitter shortly after the walkouts began. However, they accompanied the tweet with a pro-gun video (below) and followed it up with another tweet, more to their fashion, saying “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”
The walkout was marked with eloquent, passionate speeches, demonstrations, intriguing placards ,and even a poem from the country’s youth.