On Columbine anniversary, school walkouts demand gun safety

By Sara Shayanian
Students hold a gun protest sit-in near the White House in Lafayette Park, in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
1 of 4 | Students hold a gun protest sit-in near the White House in Lafayette Park, in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 20 (UPI) -- Students at nearly 3,000 schools across the United States renewed demands for greater gun control on Friday, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School attack.

Students left their classrooms at 10 a.m. and observed a moment of silence for gun violence victims -- including the 17 shot dead in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.


"Mass shootings happen far too frequently in America, and we as a nation have become numb to seeing the news," the National School Walkout said on its website. "After each one, the same cycle takes place: the media spend less than a week on the story, politicians offer their 'thoughts and prayers,' and nothing ever changes."

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., students from Calvary Christian Academy and Fort Lauderdale High School marched to City Hall to push for safer schools.


"We have to march to protect the future of the people that are going to school. We need to stop the shootings and try to make this world a better place," said student Camilo Prado.

Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla., set up 13 empty desks in memory of the Columbine victims.

As students demonstrated in South Florida, a Central Florida high school was on lockdown as a student was shot in the ankle on campus.

RELATED 2 months after Parkland, fewer Americans say guns are top concern

Students in Newark, N.J., stood on the steps of City Hall in support of the walkout, chanting "Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?"

Newark's Mayor Ras J. Baraka met with the students.

"Obviously, the adults in office and out of office don't have the kind of commitment or capacity to solve these problems," Baraka said. "So it's going to take you ... to be loud enough to pull those people out of White House and Congress, as well."

Ten-year-old Delilah Matrese was the only student to walk out of her Pennsylvania elementary school.


"She said she didn't care because 'Mommy, this is too important to be embarrassed!!'" Melissa Matrese, Delilha's mother, told CNN.

In New York City's Washington Square Park, students took part in a "die-in."

In Washington, D.C., students gathered near the White House to listen to the names of gun violence victims read aloud.

Later, the students marched toward the Capitol, chanting "Enough is enough" and "Our blood, your hands."

The latest walkouts were organized by Lane Murdock, a 16-year-old student from Ridgefield, Conn., who was disturbed by her own muted reaction to the Parkland attack on Feb. 14.

"When I found out about the shooting at MSD, I remember I didn't have a huge reaction," she said. "And because of that, I knew I needed to change myself, and we needed to change this country."

The National School Walkout follows last month's March for Our Lives protests, in which students pushed for an end to gun violence in cities around the world. More than 800,000 marched in Washington, D.C., alone.


On Thursday night, high school students and supporters rallied in Colorado's Clement Park near Columbine High School -- the site of the April 20, 1999, shooting that killed 12 students and a teacher -- to urge students to change U.S. leadership by registering to vote.

The "Vote for Our Lives" rally drew about 500 people.

"A politician fears only one thing. That is your vote," Parkland survivor Carlitos Rodriguez, 17, said.

After the Parkland shooting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill to raise the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and to ban the sale or possession of "bump stocks," while adding $69 million in funding for mental health services in schools.

Actors Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore wrote "Excuse Me" letters for students wanting to participate in the walkouts -- allowing them to write in their names to get out of class.

"I know we share the same interest for our children -- a safe nurturing environment for their education and growth," De Niro wrote. "I have four children and four grandchildren in school now. I would never make a frivolous request for them to miss class."


Georgia Rep. John Lewis tweeted support for the walkouts.

"To the young people speaking up and speaking out today, my heart is with you. Keep walking and keep marching all the way to the polls in November," Lewis tweeted. "You will change America."

Meanwhile, the American Federation of Teachers said Thursday it would sever its relationship with Wells Fargo over the bank's ties to the National Rifle Association and gunmakers.

Video by Caroline Tanner and Ethel Jiang/Medill News Service

Latest Headlines