Today, one month after 17 people were fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students across the country will take part in a National School Walkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. to remember those victims — and tell lawmakers they’ve had enough inaction regarding school safety and gun control.
Maria Milekhina of Hunter College High School on East 94th Street, like students across the nation, has been inspired by the Parkland survivors, who immediately began protesting and taking on lawmakers and the NRA to demand change.
“They took this horrible, horrible thing that happened to them and turned it into this force of nature,” the 17-year-old said. “We can stand in support and fight against this issue that, frankly, adults haven’t been able to solve yet. We’re the next generation, and it’s an issue that we’ve been accustomed to all our lives — it’s scary how we can get desensitized on a daily basis.”
Milekhina is an organizer of Hunter’s walkout, which includes a reading of the Parkland victims’ names and forums to discuss the walkout and future actions.
“We are going to focus on writing letters to politicians and corporations that have yet to divest from the NRA,” she said. “We’re protesting these laws that allow gun violence to run rampant in our country and the corporate involvement with the NRA that’s bolstering and supporting the gun lobby.”
Across town at Trinity School on West 91st Street, students will “march outside to surround the school and hold hands to show us protecting the school and ourselves,” said Naomi Doron.
Doron, 14, attended the Women’s Marches, but the walkout is her first time being among the organizers of a protest.
“[The Parkland students] are very similar to me and similar to kids everywhere,” she said. “This shooting and the scale of it had all us kids finally standing up to say, ‘Enough.’”
Doron hopes the walkouts show politicians “the amount of kids that want to see more gun control and assault rifles not accessible.”
‘Being angry is only part of the game’
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will hold a rally at the Prospect Park Bandshell from 2-5 p.m. in conjunction with the morning’s walkouts to give students resources to enact change, such as navigating the legislative process and lobbying their congressmember.
“Being angry is only part of the game. The biggest part of the game is turning that anger into action,” he told Metro. “We are seeing the energy of young people that I believe we have not seen since the civil rights movement.”
In a letter to city parents, the Department of Education said it supports students exercising their First Amendment rights by walking out, but “regular classroom schedules will continue as usual.”
Middle and high school students planning to attend post-walkout events like Adams’ will be considered absent from missed classes, but with parental or guardian permission, it will be an excused absence, the DOE added.
“They’re walking out of their school buildings, but they’re walking into a learning environment,” Adams said. “It’s an important civil lesson, and I think we’re finally going to see real changes in the issue around gun control because the children are not going to let their parents, and their parents who are able to vote, to allow the people they are voting for to ignore this.”