National School Walkout Commemorates Florida School Shooting

Students across the country are staging 17-minute protests at 10 am in their time zones.

NYT (“National School Walkout: Live Updates“):

Thousands of students, emboldened by a growing protest movement over gun violence, stood up in their classrooms on Wednesday and walked out of their schools in a nationwide demonstration, one month after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Florida.

The 17-minute protests unfolding at hundreds of schools are intended to pressure Congress to approve gun control legislation after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and come 10 days before major protests in Washington and elsewhere.

Here’s what to know:

• The first large wave of students began to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Across the country, others are scheduled to walk out at 10 a.m. in their local time zones.

• The demonstrations were not limited to school property. In Washington, sign-clutching students gathered outside the White House and on Capitol Hill.

• School administrators have been grappling with how to respond. Some districts welcomed or even tacitly encouraged walkouts, while others threatened disciplinary action against students who participate.

• It is unlikely that officials in Washington will quickly heed the demands of the students. Although Florida last week raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days, President Trump on Monday abandoned his pledge to seek national-level reforms that the National Rifle Association opposed.

• The walkouts join a long history of student protests in America. And on Saturday, March 24, students are expected to gather in Washington and other cities for the March for Our Lives coordinated by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor. More walkouts are planned on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.

• At 10 a.m., the entertainment company Viacom suspended regular programming on its cable channels. During the break, which lasted 17 minutes, MTV, VH1 and another Viacom network, Logo, highlighted the work and words of young anti-gun violence activists around the country, while other Viacom networks, including BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon, aired messages of support for the walkouts.

NBC (“National school walkout marks month since Parkland mass shooting“):

They solemnly spilled onto the high school football field, holding signs protesting gun violence and wearing shirts that read “March for our lives.” They waved at a crowd of onlookers who had gathered to show support.

Exactly one month after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School here in Parkland, survivors of the massacre joined tens of thousands of students across the U.S. in a national walkout Wednesday morning.

The 10 a.m. protest lasted 17 minutes, one minute for each of the victims killed at the high school. The purpose, according to organizers, was to highlight “Congress’ inaction against the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”

Organized by the Women’s March, an estimated 185,000 people in 50 states joined the walkout. Approximately 3,100 schools said they were going to participate, an organizer told NBC News ahead of the walkout.

The marches ranged in size. At Terre Haute North Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Indiana, walkout organizer Elisabeth Downing, a senior, said about 60 students stood in silence, many wearing orange — the color representing calls for more gun control.

“No matter what you decide the action to be, we just want action. We’re tired of thoughts and prayers and we’re ready to finally do something,” she said.

In Rhode Island, where a nor’easter on Tuesday dumped up to a foot of snow in some places, students weren’t able to march outside — so about 250 students at Pilgrim High School in Warwick walked from their classrooms to the auditorium instead.

“That could have been us. We were the same age as the Parkland kids. It was a very emotionally moving experience to be part of,” said co-organizer Karly Evans, a senior.

In Washington, D.C., a crowd in the thousands gathered, holding signs toward the White House with slogans such as “Books Not Bullets” and “Fire Politicians, Not Guns” on them.

At the stroke of 10 a.m., the crowd sat down en masse, their backs to the White House, and started a 17-minute-long moment of silence. Afterwards, some marched to Capitol Hill, with plans to meet with legislators.

In Parkland, the crowd cheered as students exited the high school and gathered in the center of the football field. Some onlookers yelled “We love you!” to the students.

While we’re almost certainly not going to get meaningful action from this Congress anytime soon, this protest movement certainly seems to be gaining momentum. It’s not obvious to me why this particular incident, among so many, seems to have been the final straw. Given that Republicans have been lock-step behind the NRA, this may add to the Democratic wave building as we head towards the November midterms.

FILED UNDER: Education, Guns and Gun Control
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mattb says:

    It’s not obvious to me why this particular incident, among so many, seems to have been the final straw.

    I don’t think there is any single factor that can be pointed to.

    However, I do think the fact the fact that many of the the organizers are (1) direct witnesses (or were present on campus at the time), (2) at an age where they can articulately speak their case, (3) are at an age where they are still idealistic and have the energy to agitate, and (4) have the time and lack of exterior responsibilities and pressures to organize, make this unique.

    Additionally they are tapping into an audience that, through readiness drills and media, have been told over and over again that they are potential victims in waiting for the next school shooting. So it’s something that’s everyone can connect on (and again, the audience has the time to actually take part in walk outs).




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  2. SKI says:

    @mattb: Also that they are the type of upper-middle class kids with the confidence and skill sets to articulate their views in ways that resonate well with large swatches of influence-makers.

    Here in Annapolis, estimates are that 1,000+ kids walked out of my son’s high school. That is about 50% of the total student body.




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  3. Neil Hudelson says:

    @mattb:

    Another reason is that this shooting, and the students’ response, came at a moment when there was an activism streak running through the national zeitgeist. The same type of protest and planned march in 2006, or even 2015 wouln’t have found such a large audience of citizens ready and willing to raise their voice in protest and at a moment when mass protests are seeing a resurgence in efficacy.




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  4. mattb says:

    @Neil Hudelson & @SKI… 100% on both counts. The moment and the makeup of the kids is critical as well (including race and class).

    The location of the school helped as well too. And the fact so many students we recording it as it unfolded.

    Like I said, it’s clearly no one factor by itself (though if you change any one particular factor too much and the results might have been very different).




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  5. Tyrell says:

    The other day I happened to see someone interviewing a few students about some new proposed gun laws. The students agreed that those proposals sounded great and they thought those would have prevented the school shootings.
    Then they were told that those laws were already on the books! There reaction was one of shock.




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  6. wr says:

    I think all the explanations for “why now” above are good and part of the answer. But there’s another big piece out there — this is the fourth mass shooting in months (the Florida nightclub, the Texas church, the Vegas concert) and the pathetic response of our (mostly Republican) politicians has been identical every time: thoughts and prayers and it’s too soon to start talking about guns and it’s terrible to politicize these completely unavoidable acts of violence.

    There is such thing as a tipping point.




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  7. teve tory says:

    There is such thing as a tipping point.

    When the GOP really went from Shïtty to TurboShïtty, around 1994, social media didn’t exist, and conservative talk radio was ascendant, so it was all upside. Now it’s turned to downside, but the GOP has no way to adjust their rabid base to the new reality.




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  8. gVOR08 says:

    Reynolds talks about the only way to change this being cultural change. We went from most of us hating gays to most of us going “meh” in what, two decades? I have no idea what “the last straw” was in that situation and hopefully twenty years from now guns will be shunned, that’ll just be the way it is, and no one will remember just when it started to change.




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  9. Franklin says:

    @Tyrell:

    There reaction was one of shock.

    You mean ‘their’? Or are you like the rest of the uneducated idiots that think our current laws are working perfectly?




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  10. wr says:

    And man, is the NRA handling this badly. They tried one tweet of sympathy, but quickly devolved to “those fascist teenagers are trying to take our rights away!!!” This is basically Trump’s tactic — when the majority is turning against you, work solely to rile your base of nutbags. The last few elections show how well this is working for Trump — maybe this is the moment the sane citizens finally turn on the NRA…




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