Tens of thousands of school pupils across the United States spilled out of their classrooms yesterday and demanded tighter gun control in one of the biggest student protests since the Vietnam era.
The National School Walkout was organised in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, in which 17 people lost their lives.
From Maine to California, the 17-minute walkout began around 10 a.m. in each time zone — one minute for each of the 17 people killed at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago. They also staged a protest demonstration outside the White House.
Students across the globe also left their classrooms Wednesday in solidarity with the American students’ movement. The demonstrations continued throughout the day in numerous cities. Wearing orange shirts and waving signs, participants marched through the streets and rallied in front of government buildings, calling on lawmakers to do something before another school falls victim to gun violence.
“This is not a matter of left versus right. This is a matter of public safety,” said Cate Whitman, a junior at LaGuardia High School in New York. “We’re all working together, which is something we haven’t seen from the adults in a very long time.”
In Parkland, Florida, Stoneman Douglas students rose before sunrise to place hundreds of pinwheels around campus to mark the anniversary. A quote from the environmentalist for whom the school is named hung from a fence near the school, setting the tone for the day.
Organizers had expected a modest turnout compared to other cities as Stoneman Douglas students prepare for a March 24 rally in Washington. As crowds swelled across the country, some students made a spontaneous decision to leave campus.
Initially organized by the Women’s March youth branch, the National Student Walkout demanded three key actions from Congress:
— Ban assault weapons;
— Require universal background checks before gun sales;
— Pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.
Participants said they want to make sure calls for change in the wake of Parkland take into account the broader context of gun violence in the United States.