Students Across America Stage School Walkouts to Protest Gun Violence
In one of the boldest acts of student protest in recent years, thousands of students nationwide are walked 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 change their logos to 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 named 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 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.