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

Rebels victorious over Swift Current Broncos

New Forwards Brett Davis and Cameron Hausinger showing lots of confidence on the ice

One hundred and five trees of Christmas

Red Deer couple decorated 105 Christmas trees to raise money for the Central Alberta Humane Society

Nuit Blanche Red Deer looking to make a comeback in 2019

Local organization is hosting a Christmas artisan market on Dec. 15th

Site of future Child Advocacy Centre on RDC campus unveiled

Centre to be located on the southwest area of the campus

Lacombe, Red Deer snubbed from new ambulance list

Lacombe Councillor Chris Ross continues to advocate for added care in Central Alberta

WATCH: Every dog has its day

Red Deer and District Kennel Club’s show began Friday and runs all weekend at Westerner Park

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why

Data suggest that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States

Canadians spent $1.7 billion dollars online in December 2017

Online retail sales accounted for 3.4 per cent of total retail sales

China: Canada’s detention of Huawei exec ‘vile in nature’

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet company

Canadian community rallies behind hundreds who lost their jobs ahead of holidays

ServiCom facility closure in Nova Scotia was announced Thursday, following weeks of pay delays

Canada seeking new members of anti-coal alliance at climate meeting

Poland relies on coal for almost 80 per cent of its electricity, more than double the global average

Shoppers Drug Mart granted licence to sell medical marijuana online

Shoppers was granted a medical marijuana producer licence in September, after applying in October 2016

‘Mylan’s been hit’: Teammate recalls shooting of Calgary Stampeder Mylan Hicks

Nelson Lugela, 21, is on trial for second-degree murder in the death of Calgary Stampeder Mylan Hicks

Most Read