Young people across the United States walked out of their classrooms and took to the streets in memory of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, which left 17 people dead in South Florida earlier this year. Aside from remembering the victims, who were shot by a teenager armed with an assault rifle on Valentine’s Day, the students marched in support of enacting stricter gun control measures.
Thousands of schools around the country participated in the walkouts; in many cases, students did not return to class and instead continued marching towards their state legislatures. In the District of Columbia, a few Democratic Senators and Representatives stepped out of their offices to meet the young protesters.
To many people, the nationwide protests recalled the massive Women’s March events of 2017, which denounced the arrival of President Donald Trump to the White House, and the similarity happens to be incidental: the walkouts were coordinated by Empower, a youth group that works closely with the Women’s March.
The first walkout protests took place at schools in South Florida days after the MSD massacre; they were coordinated by survivors Emma Gonzalez and Dylan Kraemer, two young Americans who managed to convince the Florida legislature to enact restrictions on firearms possession. Leaders from the Women’s March movement explained that the National Walkout Day is just the beginning; they are vowing to stage even greater demonstrations in support of gun control.
It should be noted that President Trump met with Kraemer and Gonzalez in February; during one of those meetings, the idea of arming teachers at schools was brought up. On the day before the walkouts, a pistol brought into a classroom by a California teacher accidentally discharged, injuring three high school students.
Opposition to the Walkouts
As can be expected, the National Rifle Association was not happy about the walkout protests. On its Twitter feed, the NRA posted updates critical of the walkouts as it reminded members that lawsuits are pending against the state of Florida. The NRA was a major financial donor to the Trump campaign.
Some school districts in Maryland, New Jersey, Arkansas, and other states warned their students about participating in the protests. Legal teams from the American Civil Liberties Union were closely monitoring these situations since they appear to be in violation of the students’ constitutional right to assemble.
Women’s March organizers have further explained that the walkouts were also staged for the purpose of calling attention to the gun violence epidemic in African American communities in regions such as Chicago. Gun violence is more than just school shootings; it is an issue that also needs to be looked at from the point of view of victims who are gunned down by heavily armed police officers.