Hundreds of students from the Washington, D.C., area walked out of school mid-day Wednesday. But they weren’t ditching class to enjoy the sunny, nearly 80-degree weather.
Instead, they headed to the White House to call for gun reform.
Students across the country participated in a school walk-out to demand tougher gun control in response to last week’s school shooting in Florida. The protest at the White House was a part of that movement and included high-schoolers and even some middle-schoolers from the D.C. area.
The walkout came on the same day President Trump met with students, parents and teachers. During the listening session, Trump promised tougher background checks and mental health screenings for gun buyers as he discussed ways to prevent mass shootings.
Outside, the protest lasted four hours, with some students arriving as early as 10:30 a.m. and some arriving mid-afternoon. Almost all the students there had participated in the school walk-out earlier in the day.
Students laid down on the ground to symbolize those who have died in school shootings. They pointed at the White House, chanting “shame on you” and “Donald Trump, Mike Pence, gun control is common sense.”
Many of the teens echoed a similar fear: that their school could be the next one to be targeted in a school shooting.
“It could be you next, it could be your friends, it could be your neighbor’s kids,” said Camille Richter, an 18-year-old student at McLean High School in McLean, Va. “I don’t want to keep going to school every day being scared of what’s going to happen to me.”
Miranda Baltaxe, a student from H-B Woodlawn in Arlington, Va., said she cried when she read the texts sent by students during the Florida shooting.
“Thinking about how it could be you is really scary,” Baltaxe said. “You’re reading these texts that kids are sending to their parents and it’s like, well what would I send?”
Terry McQuilkin, a 16 year old who attends Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md., said the government needs to regulate guns more to stop mass shootings.
“I came out here to join the protest to show support to all the families who are affected by the situation,” McQuilkin said. “Just to see if we could get our voices across to the president to see if there could be gun laws changed to see the situation get better.”
“I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about government, I’m not going to pretend to be a lobbyist or anything,” Richter said. “But we should not have AR-15s, we should not have military grade weaponry circulating in the U.S.”
Paloma Mallan, 16, said she was angry that it was students who had to take actions instead of adults.
“The teenagers and the young adults that are here right now skipping school… We are the future,” Mallan said.
And Kirsten Knisely, a student from H-B Woodlawn, said this protest was not the end of the gun fight for her and her peers.
“This is not going to stop,” Knisely said. “Everyone is really upset and this generation watched Sandy Hook happen, watched this happen, watched kids our age dying in schools. I think this is really going to be a huge movement, and really powerful.”
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