On Wednesday, March 14th, thousands of kids left their classrooms to partake in a nationwide walkout, lasting 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The walkouts began at exactly 10 AM Eastern Time, and people followed across the country at 10 in their respective time zones.
New York City saw its own series of student protests that day, as students across the city streamed out of schools and took to the streets to demand that Congress finally approve gun control legislations.
Not to miss out, Brooklyn Tech staged an enormous walkout, remaining true to its notorious size. At 10 AM sharp, students began filing out of classrooms and onto the streets, where they surrounded the school in a matter of minutes. Students remained crowded around the building for the allotted 17 minutes, and then began breaking off – many making their way to Brooklyn Borough Hall, homemade posters and banners in tow.
That day, Borough Hall was a cross section of virtually every school in its area, as students from Brooklyn Tech merged with those from Packer Collegiate Institute, the Brooklyn Friends School, St. Francis College, the John Jay School of Law, and many more. This conglomeration of schools – schools that were diverse in many ways so: public and private schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges – only further demonstrates the immense strength of this new movement.
The demonstration lasted about an hour, as the thousands of students gathered on the steps of Borough Hall to hear their fellow classmates and representatives speak.
The crowd was a sea of attentive, passionate faces, amidst numerous signs sporting slogans such as “ Am I Next?” and “BTHS calls BS.” Hundreds of cell phone screens glinted in the sunlight, as students posted photo after photo to instagram and shared video recordings on their snapchat stories, offering instant coverage of the demonstration to the rest of the nation.
Thousands of individual choices and actions led up to this day, but these students were all here for the same reason: to protest gun violence. The teenagers of the nation are fed up, and they’re calling out Congress.
“This needs to happen,” said Brooklyn Tech junior, Rose McCormack. “If not now, then soon.”
The initiative shown by students has shocked the nation, as they watch largely student-organized and student-led protests unfold all across the country. And adults are coming to realize just how powerful this movement is becoming. For many students, however, this is something that has been simmering for years, and has finally come to the surface.
“Adults don’t understand, or at least have never been a part of an active shooter drill,” explained Erin Witt, a junior at Tech, “They don’t know what that’s like. It’s terrifying! To have to do that?… My little cousin, she is 7 years old and she said to me, ‘Erin what’s an active shooter?’ And I had to look into her little 7 year old face. She had an active shooter drill at school, and didn’t know what an active shooter was. And you want to tell me that that’s right? That that’s okay?”
Students recognize that this will not bring immediate change. But as they stand in solidarity across the country, they hope to finally force a push in the right direction.
“The 17 minutes was for mourning,” said Leah Ross, another junior at Tech, “This walk is for action.”
In these recent acts of protest, students have expressed their dismay at the current state of the country, and as teenagers have so often done in the past, they are acting upon it, in the belief that eventually, something will be done.
“It’s an American tradition to protest for what you believe in,” said junior, Hannalina Hoover, “And I think we’re carrying that out admirably.”
Students like Hannalina are looking to famous protests of the past, such as the suffragists, the civil rights movement, the LGBT movement, and even the long present feminist movement, in the hopes that what they are doing now will one day spur real change, as these have. And perhaps it will.
There have been many instances in history when enough people coming together created meaningful change. This new anti-gun violence movement may very well do the same.
It has been a year of protests and action regarding issues of all sorts, spanning from widespread sexual misconduct, to the environment. And now, America’s youth – those that have long been silent and overlooked, due to their absence from the polls – have finally begun to speak.
As Brooklyn Tech freshman, so poignantly said, “The world we were given is not a good one, and if it’s going to affect us, we should be allowed to change it.”