One week after a gunman’s deadly rampage at a Florida high school, students across the country walked out of their schools Wednesday, amid a mounting call for action.
“The gun laws in this country are broken,” Connor Hartweg, a high school senior who took part in a demonstration in Illinois, told the Pioneer Press. “We really need to update today’s laws. Our government isn’t doing that. If we can’t lean on them to do it, then we’ve got to be that change.”
The demonstrations came in the wake of last week’s massacre in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. Following the mass shooting, grieving students have garnered national attention as they organized and spoke out about stronger gun control laws.
In Florida, about 100 students from Stoneman Douglas High traveled by bus to the state Capitol in Tallahassee bearing homemade signs and messages for state lawmakers, arriving late Tuesday, according to the Miami Herald.
Some students arrived in time to watch lawmakers vote against a bill that would ban assault-style rifles, similar to the one used in last week’s shooting. Some students broke down in tears as the votes were tallied.
Wednesday, they arose and rallied on a hill near the Capitol and set out to meet with 75 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, the Herald reported.
Before the shooting, “My main concerns were my grades, college acceptance and my social life,” said Delaney Tarr, according to ABC News. “Now, I’m a high school senior worried about which memorial I need to place flowers at. Now, I’m focused on what clothes I can wear so I can run away from gunfire.”
In Pennsylvania, students left the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts for a noontime protest, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. During Wednesday’s demonstration, students locked arms and remained silent for 17 minutes, the newspaper reported.
“Our goal was to show the students in Florida that we care about them, all the way in Pittsburgh,” an organizer of the effort, 18-year-old Nia Arrington, told the Post-Gazette.
In Illinois, several hundred students took part in a protest at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Wednesday, according to Karin Sullivan, a spokeswoman. The students marched as police blocked traffic, and administrators and security staff members accompanied them, Sullivan said in an update sent to families.
“The kids were orderly and peaceful,” Sullivan wrote. “They were out of the building for about a half hour and proceeded to class when they returned. Students at the back of the march were probably a bit late to sixth period, but we didn’t issue tardy passes. As one of the admins walking on the route, I was really impressed with how our students conducted themselves.”
School officials were aware of the student demonstration in advance. In a message sent to faculty and staff, principal Nathaniel Rouse said the goal wasn’t to stop the protest, but rather to make sure students were kept safe.
“If students in your classes walk out, please allow them to exit peacefully,” Rouse wrote. “Administrators and security staff will be monitoring hallways, exits and the outside of the campus to ensure that students remain safe and peaceful.”
The Post-Bulletin, a newspaper in Rochester, Minnesota, reported that high school students there walked out at noon Wednesday. One student, a senior, held a sign that read: “It could have been us,” the Post-Bulletin reported. And according to MLive.com, students in Ann Arbor, Michigan, also briefly left their high school classrooms Wednesday afternoon.
“School shootings have always been something that really bothered me because it’s stupid,” Izzy Yates, a 15-year-old student protester, told MLive.com. “It could have been our school, and I just don’t want that to happen.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that students walked out of Simon Kenton High School, in Kentucky, chanting, “Never again, never again.” Hundreds of students also walked out of Austin-area schools, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“We are going to make a difference,” Simon Kenton High School junior Katelyn Neuhaus said Wednesday, according to the Enquirer. “Kids are not going to die.”
“We are not a number” chanted the students at Simon Kenton High School.