Students and teachers at more than 2,000 schools across the country staged a national walkout to call for an end to gun violence on Wednesday, one month after 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Florida high school.
At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the scene of the Feb. 14 massacre, hundreds of students and administrators streamed out of the school and onto the football field, where they held a moment of silence in honor of the shooting victims. The Parkland students were then joined by students from nearby schools as they marched to Pine Trails Park, the site of several memorials for victims since last month’s killings.
The walkout in Parkland came a day after Broward County prosecutor Michael Satz said he would seek the death penalty against Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old gunman accused of carrying out the rampage at Stoneman Douglas.
On Wednesday, Cruz appeared in Broward County Court, where he was formally arraigned on first-degree murder and attempted murder charges. Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
At Newtown High School in Connecticut, hundreds of students gathered in the parking lot, holding signs and chanting, “We want change.” Several students climbed atop a Jeep Wrangler covered in “End Gun Violence” placards to deliver speeches to the crowd.
The school is located less than two miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed on Dec. 14, 2012, in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
In Littleton, Colo., some parents of the victims of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School planned to join students in their walkout to protest gun violence.
The nationwide walkouts were supposed to last 17 minutes in honor of the Parkland victims. But many of them lasted much longer.
In New York City, more than 1,000 students descended on Brooklyn Borough Hall, where they stayed for more than two hours, delivering speeches from a bullhorn and chanting anti-gun-violence slogans. Among them: “Rise up, guns down!”
At Trump Tower in Manhattan, a few dozen protesters gathered outside, holding signs and shouting, “No more gun violence!”
In Washington, D.C., hundreds of students of all ages met outside the White House, demanding action on gun control. The students there participated a 17-minute moment of silence with their backs turned to the Executive Mansion. President Trump, who had spent the night in Beverly Hills, Calif., after inspecting border wall prototypes in San Diego, was not home.
The demonstrators, some clutching signs with messages disparaging the National Rifle Association, then marched across the National Mall to the U.S. Capitol, where they called on lawmakers to “stand up to the NRA” and enact “meaningful” change to gun laws.
Many Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, walked out of the Capitol to join the students.
“Thank you for bringing your urgency to this fight to the doorstep of America,” Pelosi said. “Enough is enough. Whether Orlando, or San Bernardino, South Carolina, Las Vegas, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, city streets, homes across across the nation, there’s been too much violence, too much heartbreak.”
In Los Angeles, several hundred students at Granada Hills Charter High School assembled on the football field, laying on the turf to spell out “#ENOUGH.” In Portland, Ore., students at Glencoe Elementary School formed a human peace sign. They did the same at Berkeley High School in northern California.
Wednesday’s demonstrations, sparked by the massacre in Parkland, were planned by Empower, the youth branch of the Women’s March. At many schools, students needed permission from their parents to participate in the walkouts, which were encouraged in many school districts. But not all schools condoned the event.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it received dozens of calls from students who complained that their schools were threatening to discipline those who walked out. The ACLU said that students participating in walkouts should be protected by the First Amendment.
“Kids don’t give up their First Amendment right just because they walk through school doors,” Sonia Kumar, staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland, told WJZ-TV in Baltimore.
The walkouts came 10 days before the March for Our Lives demonstration on March 24, when hundreds of thousands of students are expected to march in D.C. and in more than 700 anti-gun-violence “sibling marches” around the country.
Organizers say they expect as many as 500,000 in Washington alone.