Stu­dents to put pen­cils down to­day, walk out in gun protests

Ripon Bulletin - - Local -

PARK­LAND, Fla. (AP) — From Maine to Hawaii, thou­sands of stu­dents planned to stage walk­outs to­day to protest gun vi­o­lence, one month af­ter the deadly shoot­ing in­side a high school in Park­land, Florida.

Or­ga­niz­ers say nearly 3,000 walk­outs are set in the big­gest demon­stra­tion yet of the stu­dent ac­tivism that has emerged fol­low­ing the mas­sacre of 17 peo­ple at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School.

Stu­dents from the el­e­men­tary to col­lege level are tak­ing up the call in a va­ri­ety of ways. Some planned road­side ral­lies to honor shoot­ing vic­tims and protest vi­o­lence. Oth­ers were to hold demon­stra­tions in school gyms or on foot­ball fields. In Mas­sachusetts and Ohio, stu­dents said they’ll head to the state­house to lobby for new gun reg­u­la­tions.

The co­or­di­nated walk­out was or­ga­nized by Em­power, the youth wing of the Women’s March, which brought thou­sands to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., last year. The group urged stu­dents to leave class at 10 a.m. lo­cal time for 17 min­utes — one minute for each vic­tim in the Florida shoot­ing.

Al­though the group wanted stu­dents to shape protests on their own, it also of­fered them a list of de­mands for law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing a ban on as­sault weapons and manda­tory back­ground checks for all gun sales.

“Our elected of­fi­cials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in re­sponse to this vi­o­lence,” the group said on its web­site.

It’s one of sev­eral protests planned for com­ing weeks. The March for Our Lives rally for school safety is ex­pected to draw hun­dreds of thou­sands to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal on March 24, its or­ga­niz­ers said. And an­other round of school walk­outs is planned for April 20, the 19th an­niver­sary of the Columbine High School shoot­ing in Colorado.

Af­ter the walk­out Wed­nes­day, some stu­dents in Mas­sachusetts say they plan to rally out­side the Spring­field head­quar­ters of the gun maker Smith & Wes­son. Stu­dents and re­li­gious lead­ers are ex­pected to speak at the rally and call on the gun maker to help curb gun vi­o­lence.

At Case El­e­men­tary School in Akron, Ohio, a group of fifth-graders have or­ga­nized a walk­out with the help of teach­ers af­ter see­ing par­al­lels in a video they watched about youth marches for civil rights in 1963. Case in­struc­tors said 150 or more stu­dents will line a side­walk along a nearby road, car­ry­ing posters with the names of Park­land vic­tims.

The walk­outs have drawn sup­port from com­pa­nies in­clud­ing me­dia con­glom­er­ate Vi­a­com, which said it will pause pro­gram­ming on MTV, BET and all its other net­works for 17 min­utes dur­ing the walk­outs, and stu­dents will tem­po­rar­ily take over MTV’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts.

The planned protests have drawn mixed re­ac­tions from school ad­min­is­tra­tors. While some ap­plaud stu­dents for tak­ing a stand, oth­ers threat­ened dis­ci­pline. Dis­tricts in Sayre­ville, New Jer­sey, and Mary­land’s Har­ford County drew crit­i­cism this week when they said stu­dents could face pun­ish­ment for leav­ing class.

In sub­ur­ban At­lanta, one of Ge­or­gia’s largest school sys­tems an­nounced that stu­dents who par­tic­i­pate might face un­spec­i­fied con­se­quences.

But some vowed to walk out any­way.

“Change never hap­pens with­out back­lash,” said Kara Litwin, a se­nior at Pope High School in the Cobb County School Dis­trict.

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