(Reuters) – Demanding an end to gun violence and tougher restrictions on firearm sales, thousands of students again walked out of classes across the United States on Friday in hopes of putting pressure on politicians ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Timed to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, students left classes at midmorning, many waving placards with slogans including “I should be worried about grades, not guns,” and “Enough is enough.”
Organizers said students from more than 2,600 schools and institutions were scheduled to take part, but that was fewer than participated in a similar walkout last month. In some places, demonstrators even met with resistance from school administrators.
“Today is about being proactive and being empowered and really funneling all that energy and anger we have as young people into some productive change,” one of the student organizers, Lane Murdock of Connecticut, told Reuters.
Olivia Pfeil, a 16-year-old sophomore from a high school in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, held a sign bearing the names of mass shooting victims. “We’re expecting change or come next election cycle we will support politicians who are listening to the voices of the youth,” she said.
It was the second student walkout since the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the emergence of a national student movement to end gun violence and toughen restrictions on firearms sales.
Many of the demonstrators wore orange, a color that has come to represent the movement against gun violence. A 13-second silence was observed in honor of the 13 killed at Columbine.
At the Texas statehouse in Austin, about 1,000 students, many waving signs and chanting anti-NRA slogans, demanded stricter gun control measures.
“Because we can’t vote, this is the only way we can make our voices heard,” said Graeclyn Garza, a second-year student at McCallum High School in Austin, who waved a sign reading “Enough.”
Outside the White House, protesters sat in silence while they listened to the names of gun violence victims read aloud.
“It happened like 20 years ago,” said Ayanna Rhodes, 14, a student at Washington International School, referring to Columbine, “And we are still getting mass shootings in schools.”
Two gunman went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, leaving 12 students and a teacher dead before killing themselves in a massacre that stunned the nation. But since then, school shootings have become commonplace.
Even as students prepared for their protest on Friday morning, news broke that a 17-year-old student had been wounded in a shooting at a high school near Ocala, Florida. A suspect was arrested soon afterward, police said.
The latest gun violence unfolded about 225 miles (360 km)northwest of the Parkland high school, where two months ago a former student killed 17 people in the deadliest high school shooting in US history.
Despite widespread revulsion over the school shootings, the issue of gun control remains sensitive in Colorado and across the country, where the Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.