Thousands of students again walked out of classes across the United States yesterday, marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre with a show of unity aimed at pressuring politicians to enact tighter gun restrictions.
Students from more than 2,600 schools and institutions planned to left their classes at 10am local time, organisers said.
It was the second student walkout since the February 14 massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the emergence of a national student movement to end gun violence and toughen restrictions on firearms sales.
Many of the demonstrators wore orange, a colour that has come to represent the movement against gun violence, as they observed a 13-second silence in honour of the 13 killed at Columbine.
“The children of this nation are angry, and we demand more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ tweets,” a survivor of the Parkland shooting, Amy Luo, told a crowd of about 400 student protesters gathered in front of the US Capitol in Washington.
Outside the White House, protesters sat in silence while they listened to the names of gun violence victims read aloud.
“I’m trying to get an education, but I still have a small fear that someone will come in with a gun,” said Ayanna Rhodes, 14, who walked out of Washington International School. “(The Columbine killings) happened like 20 years ago, and we are still getting mass shootings in schools.”
Two gunmen went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, leaving 12 students and a teacher dead before killing themselves.
The massacre stunned the nation but since then, school shootings have become commonplace.
Even as students prepared for their protest on Friday morning, news began trickling out that one person was wounded in a shooting at a high school near Ocala, Florida.
The latest gun violence unfolded about 225 miles (360km) northwest of the Parkland high school, where two months ago a former student killed 17 people in the deadliest high school shooting in US history.
The Sheriff’s Office for Marion County said the suspect was in custody following the early morning shooting at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida.
Despite widespread revulsion over the school shootings, the issue of gun control remains sensitive in Colorado and across the country, where the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.
In some conservative school districts, administrators told students that they could face disciplinary steps if they walked out.
In suburban Dallas, a dozen students dressed in orange all chanted “End gun violence!” as they huddled in a parking lot across the street from North Garland High School.
Freshman Victoria Fierro, 14, said school administrators blocked the doors when about 50 students tried to leave, so a small group exited through a side door.
The principal declined to answer questions from Reuters.
The walkouts, speeches and drive to sign up voters were aimed at pressuring US politicians to enact more restrictions on gun sales in the run-up to November’s midterm congressional elections.
The latest national rally came more than a month after tens of thousands of students from some 3,000 schools participated in the #ENOUGH National School Walkout to demand that lawmakers seek tighter gun control regulations.
It also followed “March For Our Lives” rallies in cities across the US on March 24 that were some of the biggest US youth demonstrations in decades, with hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters taking to the streets.
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