“Dear National Rifle Association: We Won’t Let You Win. From, Teenagers.”
Students from coast to coast walked out of school today, with many observing 17 minutes of silence in memory of the 17 victims of the most recent mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The National School Walkout was loosely organized by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March. EMPOWER says that events were planned at 3,136 locations – “and counting.”
The walkouts were set to begin at 10 a.m. in each time zone, prompting a cascade of live media coverage that flowed across the country from east to west. In Washington, D.C., where at least one dozen marches were planned, many students marched to the White House and then turned their backs – a protest against failure by Congress and the Trump administration to take meaningful action on gun safety.
Although EMPOWER and more than 50 local, state and national organizations helped support the events, the walkouts were very much student-led. The walkouts were open to students, teachers and staff, but organizers asked anyone not affiliated with a school to stay away from the walkouts, citing safety concerns.
Many schools responded to the walkouts by providing additional security to ensure the actions were organized and safe. Others, however, threatened sanctions – even including suspension – of those who participated.
Those threats drew a humorous response from Doctors for America, which circulated a signed note “excusing” the students from class. The note read:
“Please excuse_______________for being absent from class to advocate for ending gun violence, a public health crisis in America. Join me in thanking this student for courageously taking action to save lives.”
According to the Washington Post, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, still recovering from a violent white supremacist rally last summer, about 2,000 students gathered on the Lawn, many wiping away tears as the names of the 17 Florida students were read aloud. The university’s chapel bells tolled 17 times as students bowed their heads in silence.
And at Columbine High School in Colorado, where shooters killed 12 students and one teacher in 1999, students arriving early for school said they planned to take part in a demonstration at 10 a.m. local time.
Meanwhile, three New Jersey students helping organize their state’s involvement in the “March for Our Lives” event planned for March 24 in Washington, D.C. penned an op-ed in the New York Times Wednesday, touting their generation’s political power.
In the piece, “Dear National Rifle Association: We Won’t Let You Win. From, Teenagers,” Darcy Schleifstein, Zachary Dougherty and Sarah Emily Baum warn the National Rifle Association (NRA) that young Americans will use their financial and political power to ensure school safety by voting out lawmakers who accept donations from the group.
“We are Generation Z, the generation after millennials. We outnumber them by nearly one million and may be the largest cohort of future American spenders since the baby boomers. We have more than $30 billion in spending power and wield enormous influence in family spending.
“We will flex our muscles at the ballot box, too. Many high school seniors will cast their first ballots this November, and in 2020, a majority of today’s high school students will most likely be able to vote in their first presidential election. And we will not forget the elected officials who turned their backs on their duty to protect children.”
Although the primary March 24 event is in D.C., there are already more than 700 other events planned throughout the country and around the world, with more certain to be added. You can learn more here.