US school pupils walk out in gun-control protest
One month after Parkland shooting, teenagers demand action by Congress
Thousands of school pupils across America have staged a classroom walkout, calling for stricter gun laws.
One month to the day since the Parkland high school shooting claimed the lives of 17 pupils and staff, the National School Walkout saw coordinated demonstrations at hundreds of schools in US.
Fuelled by years of anger about what many say are inadequate gun laws, students are demanding Congress bans assault weapons, makes universal background checks mandatory and passes a gun-violence restraining order to allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behaviour.
At 10am local time, pupils left their classrooms and stood outside for 17 minutes - one for each of the people killed at Parkland. In addition to walkouts, pupils across the country held rallies, marches and sit-ins – “some in open defiance of their school districts” - says CNN.
In what The Guardian calls “a stunning visual riposte to the public inertia that has followed mass shootings in the US”, crowds of students at an estimated 3,000 schools across the country marched on running tracks, through parking lots and around building perimeters, carrying signs that read “Enough” and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go”.
The action left some administrators wondering how to respond. “Some districts welcomed or even tacitly encouraged walkouts,” says the New York Times, “while others threatened disciplinary action against students who participate”.
The walkout also found unlikely support from media giant Viacom, which announced its networks - including MTV, BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central - would suspend regular programmes for 17 minutes at 10am in each time zone.
While college campuses are most often associated with student protest, “since the Civil Rights era, some of the most impactful youth protests have taken place in high schools and even junior high schools”, says EdSource, citing the nine African-American children who defied the governor of Arkansas and enrolled in the all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
The walkouts are part of a wider campaign to urge Congress to impose stricter controls on firearms which culminates in a march on the capital next weekend.
However, Washington is unlikely to be swayed by the protests given many Republicans have a deep aversion to any further restrictions on gun ownership, and fear the all-powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby.