Students in New York City and across the country are tired of Congress’ inaction on gun control.
“We’re tired of the drills, tired of the warnings, of being told everything’s going to be OK,” said Cate Whitman, 17, who attends Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School on the Upper West Side.
Whitman is one of the organizers with the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER who helped organize walkouts on Wednesday to call on Congress to pass gun control legislation. The students plan to leave their school at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
More than 185,000 students, teachers and parents across the nation plan to participate in at least 1,650 walkouts, according to Women’s March Youth EMPOWER.
In New York City, 81 schools have signed up to participate across the five boroughs, according to the organizers’ website.
In Manhattan, which has at least 37 participating schools, students of the New York University School of Medicine will take to the streets to protest the National Rifle Association, according to a statement from the school.
“We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns. We are not safe while science is silenced. We need action, and we demand it now,” the statement added.
In Brooklyn, which has 25 schools participating in the walkout, eighth-graders will lead the rest of the Unity Preparatory Charter School student population in the walkout, with signs and chants, according to eighth-grade teacher, Leigh Conner.
“Tired of the monthly lockdown drills, tired of the news cycle showing a new group of students being murdered, students and teachers 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,” she said in an emailed statement.
Following the walkouts, students from dozens of NYC high schools will hold an “Evening of Action” at the Quakers’ 15th Street Meetinghouse from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. They will have workshops on contacting elected officials, lobbying retailers to limit gun sales, starting movement chapters at their schools and registering to vote for those who are old enough.
“Protests and walkouts are only half the battle: in order to affect real change, we need to be calling our representatives and working toward specific policy goals,” said Zoe Davidson, an 11th-grader and co-founder of Coalition Z, a group of high school students working to engage their generation in politics. “That’s why we’re going to be registering voters, teaching students skills they need to advocate for gun reform, and hearing from speakers who have been doing this work for years.”
The students in New York and other states will call for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines and an expansion of background checks, among other limits to gun purchases.
“We feel like our lives are at risk going to school in the morning,” Whitman said. “As a young person, our job should be going to school and getting an education.”
Whitman called out legislators who tweeted about their “thoughts and prayers” after last month’s shooting.
“It’s almost a joke at this point,” she said. “Thoughts and prayers are nice, but it’s not going to make any change.”
Congress has failed to pass any type of gun control legislation in recent years, despite calls for change after several mass shootings.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” said Sasha Matthews, and eighth grader at the Upper West Side’s Booker T. Washington Middle School, which also plans to hold a walkout. “It’s like people don’t care about the kids’ lives that are at stake.”
Students also are planning to participate in the “March for Our Lives” in Washington and New York City on March 24.