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American students to protest gun violence, walkouts planned

By Sheetal Sukhija, North Carolina State News
14 Mar 2018, 11:03 GMT+10

FLORIDA, U.S. - On Wednesday, students across several schools in different parts of the country will be staging planned walkouts, protesting gun violence. 

On the one-month anniversary of the devastating shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives, thousands of students from Maine to Hawaii will stage walkouts.

The coordinated walkout is being organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women's March, which brought thousands to Washington, D.C., last year. 

According to organizers, students from Maine to Hawaii have planned at least 3,000 walkouts, in what is set to be in the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre.

Organizers further said that students from the elementary to college level are taking up the call in different ways and some have even planned roadside rallies to honor shooting victims and protest violence. 

Yet others are planning to hold demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. 

According to organizers in Massachusetts and Ohio, meanwhile, students have said that they would head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun regulations.

Empower has urged students to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in the Florida shooting.

The group has stated that it wants students to shape protests on their own, but that it is also offering them a list of demands for lawmakers, including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.

The group has said in an update on its website, "Our elected officials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to this violence.”

Meanwhile, organizers of the March for Our Lives rally for school safety said that it plans to hold its rally on March 24, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation's capital. Further, in Colorado, another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

According to students in Massachusetts, their rally will be held outside the Springfield headquarters of the gun maker Smith & Wesson. 

The rally will feature speeches by students and religious leaders, who will call on the gun maker to help curb gun violence.

In Ohio’s Case Elementary School in Akron, a group of fifth-graders have organized a walkout with the help of teachers reportedly after seeing parallels in a video they watched about youth marches for civil rights in 1963. 

The case instructors have told local media that 150 or more students will line a sidewalk along a nearby road, carrying posters with the names of Parkland victims.

Further, reports noted many top companies have offered their support to the groups staging walkouts.

Media conglomerate Viacom has said it will pause programming on MTV, BET and all its other networks for 17 minutes during the walkouts.

Further, students will temporarily also take over MTV's social media accounts.

However, overall school administrators have delivered mixed reactions to the planned protests.

Some have applauded the students for taking a stand, while others have threatened disciplinary action against those.

In Sayreville, New Jersey and Maryland’s Harford County, administrators drew criticism after they said students could face punishment for leaving class.

Meanwhile, one of Georgia’s largest school systems, in suburban Atlanta, announced that students who participate in planned walkouts might face unspecified consequences.

Yet, most students have vowed to walk out anyway.

Some schools are even staging group discussions and teach-ins on gun violence and others are working with students to stage protests inside the school campus itself.

And to help students, the American Civil Liberties Union advised on Tuesday that schools can't legally punish students who walk out because of the political nature of their message.

Further, some lawyers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas have even said that they will provide free legal help to students who are faced with punishment.

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