National School Walkout: Mass Student Protests Against Gun Violence Across the U.S.

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In New York and elsewhere, students walked far and wide.

The demonstrations unfolded in different ways from city to city and school to school. In some places, demonstrators chanted and held signs. At other schools, students stood in silence. In Atlanta, some students took a knee.

Thousands of students around New York, many backed by permission slips from their parents, walked out of their schools and converged on central locations — Columbus Circle, Battery Park, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Lincoln Center.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, stretched out on the sidewalk as part of a “lie-in” with students in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the former home of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

More than a thousand students walked out of the Martin Luther King Jr. campus, which has a number of schools on its premises, behind Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Jaha Doyley, 17, said she feared for her own life, and that of her 9-year-old sister. “It wasn’t a hard decision,” Jaha said. “I’m really scared and worried.”

Hundreds of students sat in the middle of West 62nd street for several minutes before the crowd rose to their feet and shouted, “No more violence.” A cry of “Trump Tower!” sent dozens of protesters marching toward the Trump International Hotel and Tower across Broadway. Onlookers gave them fist-bumps.

In Washington, thousands left their classrooms in the city and its suburbs and marched to the Capitol steps, their high-pitched voices battling against the stiff wind: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, the N.R.A. has got to go!” One sign said: “Fix This, Before I Text My Mom from Under A Desk.”

Members of Congress, overwhelmingly Democratic, emerged from the Capitol to meet them. Trailed by aides and cameras, some legislators high-fived the children in the front rows, others took selfies, and nearly all soon learned that the young protesters had no idea who they were.

Except, of course, for “BERNIE SANDERS!” which the kids screamed at the Vermont senator, as well at some other white-haired, bespectacled legislators.

Asked by reporters about the walkouts, Raj Shah, Mr. Trump’s deputy press secretary, said the president “shares the students’ concerns about school safety” and cited his support for mental health and background-check improvements.

As the hours passed, the walkouts moved west across the country.

“It’s 10 o’clock,” said a man on the intercom at Perspectives Charter Schools on Chicago’s South Side. With that, hundreds of students streamed out of their classrooms and into the neighborhood, marching past modest brick homes, a Walgreen’s and multiple churches. Police officers helped block traffic.

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Posters advertising the walkout at Perspectives Charter Schools in Chicago.

Credit
Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Several current and former Perspectives students have been killed in recent years, the school president said.

“You see different types of violence going on,” said Armaria Broyles, a junior whose older brother was killed in a shooting and who helped lead the walkout. “We all want a good community and we all want to make a change.”

At Santa Monica High School in Southern California, hundreds of students were guided by teachers to the football field. It felt like a cross between a political rally and pep rally, with dozens of students wearing orange T-shirts, the color of the gun-control movement, and #neveragain scrawled onto their arms in black eyeliner.

“It is our duty to win,” Roger Gawne, a freshman and one of the protest organizers yelled to the crowd.

Not all students were supportive. Just after the organizers read the names of the Parkland victims, another student went on stage, forcibly grabbed the microphone and shouted “Support the Second Amendment!” before he was called off by administrators.

Many protested in places haunted by violence.

Some of the day’s most poignant demonstrations happened at schools whose names are now synonymous with shootings.

Watched by a phalanx of reporters, camera operators and supporters, hundreds of students crowded onto the football field at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shortly after 10 a.m.

“We’re with you,” a woman shouted from the sidewalk. Others took up the chant.

The event was suffused with sadness, given that the school was the site of the Feb. 14 shootings that have galvanized the new movement for more gun restrictions. Notes of condolence, fading flowers and stuffed toys, damp from recent rain, still lie on the grass outside the school and affixed to metal fences.

The walkout was permitted by the school, but several students said they were warned that they would not be permitted back onto the campus for they day if they left school grounds. Despite the warning, a couple hundred students marched to nearby Pine Trails Park, where they held another demonstration.

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Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., gathered at the nearby Pine Trails Park.

Credit
Saul Martinez for The New York Times

“It’s kind of unfair for us to have to go to school today, a month after this happened,” Nicolle Montgomerie, 17, a junior, said as she walked toward the park. “We need more than just 17 minutes.”

An email from the school soon went out telling students they would indeed be allowed to return.

In Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hundreds of students filed out of Newtown High School just moments before 10 a.m. and gathered in a parking lot near the football field.

At Columbine High School near Denver, site of the 1999 killing of 13 people that seemed to signify the beginning of a generation of school attacks, hundreds clustered on a soccer field burnt yellow by the Colorado sun.

They waved signs — “this is our future” — and released a bouquet of balloons in red, white and blue. Afterward, a 16-year-old junior named Kaylee Tyner stood at the edge of the field, next to Frank DeAngelis, who was the principal when the attack occurred.

“We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?” she said. “Why does this keep happening?”

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