“Your rights to a gun does not supersede my rights to graduate high school,” exclaimed National School Walkout D.C. organizer Ian Berlin, 17, overlooking perhaps a thousand high school and middle school students gathered on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Friday, April 20. It was the second such national student walkout to protest gun violence since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Students from the District and surrounding towns assembled near the White House before marching to the Capitol with chants of “Enough is enough” and “Vote them out.” At more than 2,000 schools across the country, students walked out of class on the 19th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, the deadliest school shooting up to that time. Sadly, that record has been surpassed several times over. At 10 a.m., the students sat for 19 minutes of silence in remembrance of Columbine’s 13 victims.
According to the Washington Post, there have been 212 school shootings and more than 208,000 students exposed to gun violence since the Columbine massacre.
Friday’s demonstration was organized entirely by the students. The motivation was fear. The only adult to address the crowd from the podium was Sally Garrigan, a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting.
Similar rallies have also turned into voter registration drives, as demonstrators direct their attention to electing politicians who will enact tougher gun laws. One new voter is Jay Falk, a senior at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, who was born in 1999, just a few months after Columbine. She instructed students how to use their mobile phones to apply to register to vote, and how to sign up to encourage others to do the same.
The protest signs were of the homemade variety, and poignant. A 13-year-old seventh-grader carried one that read: “I thought I had to be 18 to be brought into a war zone.” An older student wrote: “I should be writing essays … not a will.” “The only thing we should be scared of at school are tests,” said another. Many asked: “Am I Next?”
View Jeff Malet’s photos from the April 20 School Walkout D.C. by clicking on the photo icons below.