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Tens of thousands of students and teachers across the United States are set to walk out of schools Wednesday to protest what organizers say is congressional inaction to gun violence in American schools.
The walkout will take place at 10 a.m. local time at each site and will last for 17 minutes — one for each person killed when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day. Nearly 3,000 walkouts are set to be held across the country and around the world, organizers said.
Women’s March Youth Empower, the youth branch of Women’s March, planned the walkout “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” according to a statement.
“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school,” the statement said. “Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.”
Students at any given site could face disciplinary action if their walkout is not sanctioned by their school’s administration. But many educational institutions have signaled they will allow the 17-minute memorial to proceed as planned.
It’s one of several protests planned for the coming weeks.
The March for Our Lives rally for school safety is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to Washington on March 24. Another round of walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Since last month’s shooting, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have taken the lead in calling for gun legislation reform, forming Never Again MSD, a student-led gun control organization.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the students who helped found the Never Again MSD, gave a speech shortly after the shooting in which she called out politicians for not addressing mass shootings.
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA [National Rifle Association, a U.S. gun lobby], telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call BS,” Gonzalez said. “They say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS.”
The impact of student activism has already been felt in their home state. Last week, Florida enacted stricter gun control measures, including raising the minimum age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. But the legislation also paved the way for the arming of teachers, a proposal backed by U.S. President Donald Trump but opposed by many students and teachers.