Angry over Texas school shooting, students stage walkouts protesting gun violence, again
When Ashley Castillo was in seventh grade at Virgil Middle School, she walked out with her classmates, calling for stronger gun control laws after 17 students and staff were killed at a Parkland, Fla., high school. Now a high school junior, she’s doing it again — this time, 19 elementary school students and two teachers were shot to death Tuesday in Texas.
“It’s devastating. It’s heart-wrenching,” Ashley said before leading the walkout at Hollywood High School on Thursday. “We’re stuck with the responsibility of planning these events and having to advocate for ourselves ... thoughts and prayers are not getting us anywhere after years and years.”
Throughout the Los Angeles region and across the country, students and teachers walked out of their classrooms as part of an organized protest after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman opened fire inside a classroom at Robb Elementary School. Students Demand Action, an initiative that is part of the Everytown for Gun Safety group, said students organized walkouts at more than 200 schools Thursday across the country.
The student group was launched after the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla., and by advocates for gun-safety policies. That year, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools affected by gun violence led a national movement to demand action on guns. The effort sparked a wave of student activism and stricter gun-control laws in some states.
On social media, videos and images captured student walkouts in Rhode Island, New York, Missouri and California.
In Los Angeles, students demonstrated on campuses from Los Feliz to Woodland Hills.
Ashley, who founded the Students Demand Action club at her school, said she believed it was important to walk out Thursday to honor the students killed in Texas and the people whose lives were cut short by gun violence, including the people killed May 14 at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y.
On Thursday, Ashley, with the support of her school administration, gave a speech during which she spoke about the shooting in Texas and named the victims. The school had a moment of silence and she told the school the walkout would be held at 11:30 a.m.
The names and stories of those killed in the Texas school shooting are emerging as the stunned community of Uvalde tries to cope with Tuesday’s attack.
When the time came, she was joined in the campus quad by hundreds of other students, some who held signs. She told her classmates that they can call elected officials and register to vote. And again, she listed the names of the victims in Uvalde as well as those in Buffalo.
“Protect children not guns,” one student’s sign read. “Fix this before I text my mom from under a desk,” another read.
Los Angeles Unified spokesperson Shannon Haber said that the district was aware of the walkouts and that educators were helping students plan advocacy efforts and activities on campus.
“Part of our responsibility as a school district is to raise up the next generation of voters and to help them find pathways to become engaged citizens,” Haber said.
In Woodland Hills, students at El Camino Real Charter High School began their walkout at 9 a.m. Videos posted online show dozens of students chanting “enough is enough” as they marched on the campus. In other cities, students held signs and chanted. One student held up a piece of paper that read: “How loud do the screams have to be before you listen” and “I should worry about my SATs not my life.”
On Thursday afternoon, students from John Marshall High School chanted, “No more silence, end gun violence” near a busy intersection in Los Feliz.
Some of the students had been there since 9 a.m., said Namiye Nakazawa, a freshman who organized the spontaneous walkout Thursday morning after she learned they were happening across the country. They made signs in class before walking off campus. She said she was not worried about being marked absent. She’s more afraid of what her high school future could hold.
“Things like this, they happen so suddenly, you really don’t know if you’re going to be next,” she said while standing out on the sidewalk with other students. By 3 p.m., they were getting ready to head home for the day as cars continued to honk in support. “You have this resignation that ‘Oh, I could just die at my school.’ ”
Namiye was in fifth grade when the Parkland shooting happened. She said that along with the fear of a school shooting, she’s frustrated that little has really changed.
She spent nearly the entire school day out on the sidewalk holding signs that read “don’t shoot” and “gun control now.” A local business owner and strangers ordered pizza for the 40 or so students and gave them water, she said.
“What’s one day of being marked absent compared to all these lives that we lose in these shootings?” she said.
In Alhambra, teachers, students and community members came together to rally and call for an end to gun violence. Jose Sanchez, a civics and U.S. government teacher at Alhambra High School, said the rally came together in response to the shooting in Texas.
Since Tuesday, his students have asked him why school shootings continue to happen and why guns aren’t better regulated. Students, he said, are “as confused and scared as any adult is.”
His wife also teaches at Alhambra High, and they’ve had difficult conversations about whether one of them should transfer to a different school in case a school shooting occurred, Sanchez said.
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