DETROIT (WWJ) – Students in Michigan and across the U.S. walked out of class Wednesday morning, demanding lawmakers take action against gun violence.
“It’s a demonstration and a protest and a rally,” said Reginald Hawkins, a senior at Berkley High School in Berkley. “It’s just to get everyone in the mood to make a change.”
More than 3,000 walkouts were planned nationwide, according to reports, with students urged walk out at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in last month’s attack at a Florida high school. The point, according to the organizing group Empower, the youth wing of the Women’s March, is to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing schools and neighborhoods.
“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school,” the organization said, in a media release. “Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.”
“We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address the public health crisis of gun violence.”
Student-organized walkouts took place at high schools in Berkley, Bloomfield Hills, Dakota, Dearborn Fordson, Novi, Livonia Stevenson, Churchill, and Chippewa Valley, among others in metro Detroit and other parts of the state.
District officials said they are not leading the walkouts but would be supervising, making sure that students remain on school grounds for safety concerns.
Berkley students chanted “We Want Change,” as they marched. Some students carried signs that read “No More Silence, End the Violence,” and “No Bullet Will Silence Us.”
Outside Fordson, where around 2,700 student participated in the walkout, the names of the 17 people killed in Florida were read. The them of the protest there was “We have had enough.”
“For me, personally, it’s just like an action of kind of like respect because those student did not deserve to die,” she told Zainab Ali, a Fordson junior, told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “It’s kind of like we’re standing up for them to show the governing that something need to change for those students…not like those, but many more.”
But should teachers be armed? Fordson senior Khairallah Salleh said no, that they do not want any guns in schools. “It wouldn’t be safe for us. We wouldn’t be comfortable in school and we’d always be worried every morning about it.”
While some schools threatened discipline for participants, others — including Cass Tech Principal Lisa Phillips — applauded their students.
“This is the best, one of the best days to be a principal as Cass Technical High School,” she said. “Well, all my days are good but today? Wow!”
On the other side of the issue, Michigan Republican Committee woman Jeanine Kateff said the walkout is one-sided and the approach is wrong.
“What about those students who don’t particularly support this anti-gun movement? What do they do; what’s there place?” Kateff asked. “To me the fairest way to do this is to have an all school assembly, bring in a pro and a con speaker on this subject, and let the kids hear from both sides. That’s fair.”
Kateff, a former principal, said students should also learn about the importance of reaching out to those who are being bullied or are alone. She said the walkout should have been called a memorial, because the event really is tremendous.