Once again, they filed out of class. In a new wave of school walkouts, they raised their voices against gun violence. However, this time, they were looking to turn outrage into action.
Many of the students who joined demonstrations across the US on Friday turned their attention to upcoming elections as they pressed for tougher gun laws and politicians who will enact them.
Scores of rallies turned into voter registration drives. Students took the stage to issue an ultimatum to their lawmakers.
“We want to show that we’re not scared. We want to stop mass shootings and we want gun control,” said 16-year-old Binayak Pandey, who rallied with dozens of students outside the Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. “The people who can give us that will stay in office, and the people who can’t give us that will be out of office.”
All told, tens of thousands of students left class on Friday for protests that spread from coast to coast. They filed out at 10am to gather for a moment of silence honoring the victims of gun violence.
Some headed to nearby rallies. Others stayed at school to discuss gun control and register their peers to vote.
Organizers said an estimated 150,000 students protested on Friday at more than 2,700 walkouts, including at least one in each state, as they sought to sustain a wave of youth activism that drove a larger round of walkouts on Saturday last week.
HeadCount, a nonprofit group that registers voters at music events, said 700 people had signed up to vote through its Web site over the past week.
That was up from just 10 people in the same period last year.
HeadCount spokesman Aaron Ghitelman credited the uptick to walkout organizers who steered teens to the group’s Web site.
Friday’s action was planned by a Connecticut teenager, Lane Murdock, after a gunman stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, leaving 17 people dead.
It was meant to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado.
The focus on November’s elections reflects a shift after activists gained little immediate traction in Washington — and prospects for their influence remain uncertain.
US Congress has shown little inclination to tighten gun laws, and US President Donald Trump backed away from his initial support for raising the minimum age to buy some guns.
In cities across the US, it was common to see crowds of students clad in orange — the color used by hunters to signal “don’t shoot” — rallying outside their schools or at public parks.
Several hundred gathered at New York City’s Washington Square Park, chanting “The NRA [National Rifle Association] has got to go” and “Enough is enough.”
A large group in Washington marched from the White House to the Capitol building to rally for gun control.
Shortly before the walkouts, news spread that there had been another shooting at a Florida school.
Authorities said one student shot another in the ankle at Forest High School in Ocala early on Friday.
Activists said it underscored the urgency of their work.
The walkouts drew counter-protesters in some areas, including about 30 at a rally outside New Hampshire’s statehouse.
In Kansas, about 200 gun rights supporters held their own demonstration outside the statehouse. Many carried signs and flags, and some brought holstered handguns.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a US Republican candidate for governor, addressed the crowd and later criticized the walkout movement.
“Instead of walking out of class, why don’t you stay in class and spend that half-hour studying the Second Amendment? You might learn something,” Kobach said later.
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