Donald Trump

‘The Adults Have Failed Us': Thousands of DC-Area Students Walk Out of School for Gun Protests

"The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now. And if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out"

Thousands of young people across the D.C. area walked out of school Wednesday morning to demand action on gun violence in the biggest demonstration yet of student activism since the massacre in Florida one month ago. 

Students walked out of class or participated in events on school grounds in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Outside the White House and the U.S. Capitol, more than 1,000 youth braved bitter cold to make their voices heard. The students chanted against gun violence and held a 17-minute-long moment of silence to honor the 17 people killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

President Donald Trump was traveling in Los Angeles and was not in the White House during the demonstrations. 

The time for action has come, Matt Post, a student member of the board of education in Montgomery County, Maryland, said in an impassioned speech outside the Capitol.

"The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now. And if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out," he cried.

Students said they want lawmakers to keep guns out of schools and out of the hands of dangerous people.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders expressed his pride as thousands of students looked on. 

"Young people of this country are leading the nation. All across the country, people are sick and tired of gun violence," he said. 

The young protesters were peaceful and cooperative with law enforcement, D.C. police chief Peter Newsham said.

"The kids have been great. They've abided by all of the laws here in the District. They came out here to peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights," he said.

More than 3,000 walkouts were planned across the country and around the world, organizers said. Students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes -- one minute for each of the dead in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

At Oxon Hill High School in Maryland, students held an assembly to honor the Parkland victims, talk about their own fears and plan how they will try to change gun laws in the state.

Seventeen students stood in an auditorium, each holding a flashlight. Students spoke about each of the Parkland victims. Once the victim's name was called, a light went out.

The assembly came one month after a student at the school was shot in the parking lot during an attempted robbery. 

In Loudoun County, Virginia, more than 600 students at Freedom High School braved the cold to spend their lunch period circling the track for 17 minutes.

"We plan on being the generation that makes this change, and we're on the right side of history," senior L.J. Garcia said.

At Dominion High School and Seneca Ridge Middle School, also in the county, some students chose to talk out. Their signs asked the chilling question, "Are we next?"

The students who chose to walk out knew they would be punished. They will get detention.

In Montgomery County, police cruisers escorted hundreds of students from Montgomery Blair High School as they walked out of class to the Silver Spring Metro station. Carrying colorful signs, the students took the Metro to the White House, where they joined thousands of other students to demand stronger gun control laws. 

Jackson Monroe, 16, of Bethesda, Maryland, was one of the student protesters outside the White House. Monroe, a sophomore at Chevy Chase High School, said he and others are just trying to make a difference. 

"I don't think a 15-year-old kid should have to worry about if someone is going to shoot them at school. They should worry about homework and not question if they will get shot," he said. "This next generation does not want to be scared in their schools." 

At Parkdale High School in Riverdale, students walked out of class and to the school's football field to pay tribute to the victims of the Parkland shooting. 

Some middle schools also participated in the national walkout. Outside Seneca Ridge Middle School, students held orange signs and read the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting. 

Metro ridership was way up Wednesday morning. About 10,000 additional riders used the system before noon compared to the same time last week, a representative said.

From Florida to New York, students poured out of schools, marching through the streets or gathering on campus to demonstrate. 

At other schools, students created symbols to try to represent the tragedy. At Cooper City High, near Parkland, students gathered around 14 empty desks and three podiums arranged in a circle outside the school, representing the 14 students and three faculty members killed in the shooting. The students then released 17 doves into the sky. 

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened discipline.  

The coordinated walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women's March, which brought thousands of people to Washington last year. 

Although the group wanted students to shape protests on their own, it also offered them a list of demands for lawmakers, including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales. 

Historians said the demonstrations were shaping up to be one of the largest youth protests in recent history. 

"It seems like it's going to be the biggest youth-oriented and youth-organized protest movements going back decades, to the early '70s at least," said David Farber, a history professor at the University of Kansas who has studied social change movements. 

"Young people are that social media generation, and it's easy to mobilize them in way[s] that it probably hadn't been even 10 years ago." 

Other protests planned in coming weeks include the March for Our Lives rally for school safety, which organizers say is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation's capital on March 24. Another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High shooting in Colorado.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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