FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2017, file photo, Aztec High School students and area residents gather for a candlelight vigil in Aztec, N.M., after a shooting at the high school. While students across the country plan walkouts to protest gun violence, teens at the New Mexico high school still reeling after two classmates were gunned down in December by an armed intruder have organized a “walk-up” to help unify a campus with varied ideas on school safety. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

US students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence

Students across the country plan walkouts to protest gun violence

Young people in the U.S. walked out of class to demand action on gun violence Wednesday in what activists hoped would be the biggest demonstration of student activism yet in response to last month’s massacre in Florida.

More than 3,000 walkouts were planned across the U.S. and around the world, organizers said. Students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Students from elementary school to college planned to take up the call in a variety of ways. Some were expected to hold roadside rallies to honour shooting victims and protest violence. Others planned demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Massachusetts and Ohio, students said they would head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun laws.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened discipline.

Related: 7,000 pairs of shoes laid out in Washington, D.C., to honour kids killed by gun violence

The co-ordinated walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women’s March, which brought thousands to Washington last year.

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 organization said on its website.

Other protests planned in coming weeks include the March for Our Lives rally for school safety, which organizers say is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital on March 24. Another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High shooting in Colorado.

Related: Students head to Florida capital to press for gun law change

Some students in Massachusetts said that after Wednesday’s protest, they planned to rally outside the Springfield headquarters of the gun maker Smith & Wesson.

At Case Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, a group of fifth-graders were organizing 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 were expected to line the sidewalk, carrying posters with the names of Parkland victims.

The walkouts drew support from companies including media conglomerate Viacom, which planned to pause programming on MTV, BET and all its other networks for 17 minutes during the walkouts.

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 participated 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.

The possibility of being suspended “is overwhelming, and I understand that it’s scary for a lot of students,” said Lian Kleinman, a junior at Pope High. “For me personally, this is something I believe in. This is something I will go to the ends of the Earth for.”

Other schools sought a middle ground, offering “teach-ins” or group discussions on gun violence.

Meanwhile, free speech advocates geared up for a battle. The American Civil Liberties Union issued advice for students who walk out, saying schools can’t legally punish them more harshly because of the political nature of their message. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas, some lawyers said they would provide free legal help to students who are punished.

___

Collin Binkley, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Air support grounded as fires fill the skies with smoke

Heavy smoke throughout the region thwarted efforts of BC Wildfire Saturday, as… Continue reading

Evacuation alerts in place for south of Keremeos, Hedley and Princeton

More evacuation alerts - south of Keremeos - were issued Saturday afternoon… Continue reading

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Key to the SOEC 2017 winner grateful for experience

Petersen discusses what it’s like to win a year of free concerts at the SOEC

UPDATED: Super League organizers cancel Saturday afternoon races in Penticton

Inaugural North American triathlon hoping for clearer skies Sunday

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Trans Canada Highway opened again near Sicamous

Motor vehicle incident on Highway 1 between Sicamous and Malakwa closed road after 6 p.m.

West Kelowna wildfire evacuation alert rescinded

Alert rescinded Saturday for properties near four lakes within the Gottfriedsen Mountain wildfire

B.C. man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Key to the SOEC 2017 winner grateful for experience

Petersen discusses what it’s like to win a year of free concerts at the SOEC

Most Read