In one of the boldest acts of student protest in recent years, thousands of students nationwide are walking out of classrooms today at 10 a.m. across time zones for 17 minutes in solidarity with the 17 killed in the school shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School exactly one month ago.
Today, 1 month after of the day that changed our lives forever, we will join the school walkout. We will join the walkout for every one of those 17, and for every other victim of gun violence. We will join for those that are still here. We will join for you. #NeverAgain— Delaney Tarr (@delaneytarr) March 14, 2018
These walkouts are just the first act of organized protest that students have successfully planned in an attempt to keep gun control in the national conversation: in 10 days, on March 24, the March for Our Lives will see thousands more students march on Washington and demand legislation to keep them safe from gun violence in their schools.
The march was organized alongside gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety, and has the support of many celebrities, including George and Amal Clooney, Oprah, and Steven Spielberg—who donated $500,000 each—and companies like Gucci and Lyft, among many others. There are more protests planned for April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Just yesterday, 7,000 pairs of shoes were lined up on the southeast lawn of the U.S. Capitol building to represent every child that has died by gunfire after Sandy Hook.
Good Luck, Stay Safe, and Kick B*tt to all those walking out of school today ! 💞💞 https://t.co/FGRdXTkrbD— Emma González (@Emma4Change) March 14, 2018
As 10 a.m. falls on different parts of the country, various schools will honor the movement in different ways. For some, like Columbine High School in Colorado or Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the day holds an even more poignant meaning. Across the country, though, not all schools are accommodating the protests in the same way. The New York Times reports that schools in New York City, for example, allowed students to participate if their parents granted permission. Governor Andrew Cuomo even joined one protest, playing dead by lying on the floor alongside students.
In Muscogee Country, Georgia, school administrators expressly disapproved “unapproved exercises” like walkouts, and promised “immediate disciplinary action.” Jeremy Hidalgo, school board vice president in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, said students “were just disgusted and disappointed that we were going to participate in a national walkout that was geared around gun control,” which sounds like the exact opposite of what a group of teenagers would actually say. USA Today reports that some schools in parts of New Jersey and Texas threatened students with a three-day suspension if they walked out. One student in North Carolina posted a video in which he was the only one who walked out of his school.
"Life is all about choices, and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative," said Curtis Rhodes, superintendent for Needville Indepndent School District, about 40 miles southwest of Houston. "We will discipline no matter if it is one, 50 or 500 students involved."
Previously, universities throughout the country, including Yale, Boston University, University of Virginia, and many others, pledged to not reject students who had been suspended for protesting gun laws. The ACLU has also repeatedly expressed that protesting is a student's First Amendment right. Other school districts, as well as some parents, took issue with the protest's supposed political nature, because apparently wanting to survive the school day is a deeply partisan issue nowadays.
I’m keeping my daughter home from school today. I will not allow my children to be forced to participate in a “walkout” to support the elimination of our civil rights. The Democratic Party and its allies in the teachers’ unions & PTA will not get to use my kids as election props.— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) March 14, 2018
The Hill reports that Viacom cable networks—including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, and Comedy Central—paused their regular programming for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. ET today in solidarity with the national walkouts. Viacom also announced that students will be taking over MTV’s social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook, during the walkout. Viacom will also cover the March for Our Lives later this month. MTV and Comedy Central will make their logos orange to raise awareness around gun violence. In addition, BET will offer grants for youth activists with “innovative ideas about addressing gun violence and mental health issues.”
“This generation continues to be the driving force for change,” said Marva Smalls, Viacom's executive vice president of global inclusion. “With more than 17 young people dying from gun violence every single day, unfortunately, no community is safe."
Students everywhere came prepared with powerful signs and chants designed to grab attention. One teenager held up a sign that said "As a black boy, I hope one day I have as many rights as a gun." At a New York City school, students read the names of the 17 people killed in Parkland, Florida last month. Schools in Washington, D.C. marched to the White House and then onwards to the U.S. Capitol.
Students at a high school in New York City take turns reading out the names of the people killed in the Parkland shooting. pic.twitter.com/EDxpds0Dc0— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 14, 2018
Student protesters have arrived at the US Capitol after marching from the White House. They are calling for changes to the nation’s gun laws in the wake of the Parkland shooting. pic.twitter.com/yZdg73i8XI— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) March 14, 2018
Student speaks in front of the U.S. Capitol on #NationalWalkoutDay: “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.” pic.twitter.com/VEdAcLnuOI— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 14, 2018
A common theme in the student speeches is how it’s irrational people can legally buy a gun before they can legally buy a beer.— Mary Ann Georgantopoulos (@marygeorgant) March 14, 2018
Students walked out of classrooms, giving no mind to weather conditions, and made effective use of their time. Some decided to walk out onto their school's sports fields, while others in more urban settings walked out onto the streets. In Parkland, where students just recently returned to school after the Valentine's Day mass shooting, the protest had a special significance. The students there poured out onto the football field. Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who has charged with the shooting there, is expected to appear in court later today.
Students from Center For Inquiry school 2 have begun their walkout and march in downtown Indianapolis pic.twitter.com/CEl6LQvfS5— Justin L. Mack (@justinlmack) March 14, 2018
At Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, students are pouring out the back doors and making their way to the football field for the #NationalSchoolWalkout against gun violence. https://t.co/s5J9uTr9sf pic.twitter.com/m9pCeuZW26— Talia Richman (@TaliRichman) March 14, 2018
HAPPENING NOW: It’s after 10 and the walkout at Heritage High is beginning now. pic.twitter.com/2SV4sT0fZk— Stephanie Santostasi (@Stephanie_NC9) March 14, 2018
The widespread protests signal a moment of elevated social awareness in this country—from the Women's March to the pro-immigration airport protests to these school walkouts, more and more people are becoming engaged and energized about making a difference. Politics, as ever, is slow to keep up. The Parkland students advocated hard for gun control in the immediate aftermath of the shooting there, but the result was more backwards than they had anticipated: Florida lawmakers passed legislation that would allow some teachers and school staff members to carry guns. Nevertheless, other politicians are expressing their support for students today.
Thank you to the young people throughout this country who are walking out today and who have the courage to do what the United States Congress is not doing: lead us forward to stop the slaughter that we have seen from coast to coast due to gun violence. #NationalWalkoutDay pic.twitter.com/JfdcCc0Ifk— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 14, 2018
Sometimes you have to get in trouble--good trouble, necessary trouble--to make a way out of no way.— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) March 14, 2018