High Schoolers lead nationwide protests against gun violence in schools

Tens of thousands of high school students across the nation led a protest, streaming out of schools across the country to protest against gun violence in the wake of last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that had killed 17 people.

“I’m just mad there’s no action by our government representatives,” Daniel Rogov, a junior in Brooklyn, New York, said. “It’s all thoughts and prayers; it’s all talk,” he told the media. “After a gun violence tragedy there’s a speech talking about how we need change but there never is change.”

From Maine to California, the 17-minute walkout — one minute for each of the 17 people killed at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago — began around 10 a.m. in each time zone.

Some participants read the names of each victim; others stood in silence around sets of empty chairs. At Granada Hills Charter High School in Los Angeles, students lay down on a football fieldto spell out the walkout’s rallying cry: “Enough.”

The protests, which began at 10 a.m. across every time zone, was officially scheduled to last 17 minutes — one minute for each of the victims gunned down in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But many students ralled for much longer.

Earlier less than a week after the shooting in Florida, dozens of students had gathered in front of the White House to demand changes to gun laws. The demonstration was organized by Teens For Gun Reform, an organization created by students in the Washington, D.C., area in the wake of the shooting

Protesters participated in what they said would be a three-minute lie-in, which began around 12:30 p.m. on Presidents Day. They lay down in front of the White House “in representation of the victims of school shootings,” according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.

Across the country, Indian-American lawmakers and those running for election, as well as those heading important organizations, expressed solidarity with the students. The nationwide political expression by students, including Indian-Americans, is not going to be a one-day affair, leaders have indicated.

Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, tweeted, “All 3 of my kids chose for themselves to participate in #NationalStudentWalkout today. Very proud of them. This was a part of their education, not a break from it.” Bharara was among several Indian-American leaders in the country to come out in support of the students.

California Congressman Ami Bera, a Democrat, tweeted, on March 14 night, “We need commonsense measures to prevent gun violence because kids   deserve to be safe at school. I’m inspired by students across the country and hopeful their actions will spark the overdue change we need.  #NationalWalkoutDay #NeverAgain.”

Senator Kamala Harris, D-California, noted youth was no bar to protesting. “Martin Luther King was only 26 when he helped lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. John Lewis was 21 when he went down to Mississippi as one of the original Freedom Riders. Diane Nash was 22 when she started leading sit-ins in Nashville,” Harris tweeted.

“Enough is enough as the 14,000 kids who have died, shows,” said Puneet Ahluwalia, Republican political and business strategist from Virginia. He was referring to one of the student protests which put a number on gun violence deaths. Ahluwalia, who is the parent of a high-school going daughter and one who is in first year in university, told News India Times, “We need to come out with common-sense reforms to curtail these threats, We cannot afford to lose another life. So just as we have regulations for other industries, we need them for the guns.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, gave a shout out to local students “Ballard High School student organizers are gathering to make their voices heard – we must step up and listen.#NationalWalkoutDay #EndGunViolence.”

Hiral Tipirneni, candidate for Congress from Arizona tweeted, “The young folks have it right – gun violence is a public health issue & must be treated as such. …” and called for ‘commonsense” solutions.

Former Justice Department Civil Rights Division Chief Vanita Gupta, currently president of the largest civil rights organization in the country, called on Congress to “go back to the drawing board and pass the gun safety legislation that people in America actually want.”

Initially organized by the Women’s March youth branch, the National Student Walkout demanded three key actions from Congress:

— Ban assault weapons;

— Require universal background checks before gun sales;

— Pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.

Participants at the protests waved signs and chanted enough as they marched through the streets and rallied in front of government buildings, including the White House. They called on lawmakers to do something before another school falls victim to gun violence.

“This is not a matter of left versus right. This is a matter of public safety,” said the students. “We’re all working together, which is something we haven’t seen from the adults in a very long time.”

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