Students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence

Young people in the U.S. walked out of school to demand action on gun violence Wednesday in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged since the massacre in Florida.

More than 3,000 walkouts were planned across the country and around the world, organizers said. Students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the dead in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Max Poteat, a student who helped organize a walkout at North Carolina’s East Chapel Hill High School, said he was struck by the emotional weight of the moment.

“I think halfway through it really hit me, and I think everyone around, that these are teenagers just like us and that their lives were taken innocently — and that time is needed for change,” he said.

Thousands of students gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, holding colorful signs and cheering in support of gun control. The students chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho. The NRA has got to go!” President Donald Trump was in Los Angeles at the time.

Stoneman Douglas High senior David Hogg livestreamed the walkout at the tragedy-stricken school in Parkland, Florida, on his YouTube channel. Walking amid a mass of people making their way onto the football field, he criticized politicians for not taking more action to protect students.

He said the students could not be expected to remain in class when there was work to do to prevent gun violence.

“Every one of these individuals could have died that day. I could have died that day,” he said.

From Florida to New York, students poured out of their schools, marching through the streets or gathering on campus to demonstrate.

At other schools, students created symbols to try to represent the tragedy. At Cooper City High, near Parkland, students gathered around 14 empty desks and three podiums arranged in a circle outside the school, representing the 14 students and three faculty members killed in the shooting. The students then released 17 doves from a box.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened discipline.

About 10 students left West Liberty-Salem High School — which witnessed a shooting last year — despite a warning they could face detention or more serious discipline.

Police in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta patrolled Kell High, where students were threatened with unspecified consequences if they participated in the walkout. At least three students walked out anyway. A British couple walking their dogs went to the school to encourage students but were threatened with arrest if they did not leave.

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