Washburn High School students walk out protesting gun violence, eventually gathering in MLK Park in Minneapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - High school students in Minneapolis walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest gun violence following a mass shooting at a Florida high school last week, one of a number of similar events calling on state and national legislators to pass meaningful firearm regulations.
Students from at least four local high schools, including Washburn High School, Roosevelt High School, South High School and Southwest High School participated in a march to Minneapolis City Hall, with many taking public transportation to downtown Minneapolis before gathering for the event.
The walkout began around 11:00 a.m., with students from Southwest High School marching down 50th Street toward Washburn High School, chanting "no guns in our schools" and "What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now!"
"This is happening in our schools, in our classrooms," said Southwest High School student Nikolas Fischer. "This is a threat to our lives and we as a student body have had enough."
Parents in attendance voiced their support for the groundswell of collective action across the country on the issue of gun violence, with many noting that without the right to vote, this is the only way for those under the age of 18 to make their voices heard. Empowered by the response to their walkout, many students pushed back against the idea that they're too young, too naive or that their voices don't matter, saying they're watching the actions of those in power and are ready to change the political conversation bit by bit.
"I'm out here because as a student I feel endangered," said Roosevelt High School student Max Ridenour. "It's my duty to speak up because I don't want to be next and I don't want my friends to be next. I just want to feel safe at my school."
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey even joined in the march for a short while, telling the crowd gathered near City Hall that he shared their goal of making schools safe through legislative action on gun control. Though Minnesota state law supersedes local ordinances when it comes to guns, Frey told those gathered he hopes the city can join the fight in pushing for action on the state level.
"This is the NRA's worst nightmare," he said to the crowd. "We've got a message for the gun lobby. Look at all these young, smiling faces out here. They're warriors and they're coming for you."
It was a message city leaders took to heart, with the Minneapolis Intergovernmental Committee passing language just a few hours later supporting state measures such as banning the sales of assault-style weapons and other firearm modifications.
Since the shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students across the nation have been staging protests demanding lawmakers pass similar gun control legislation. Several more school walkouts are scheduled in the coming weeks across the nation, including a 17-minute protest to honor the victims in Parkland March 14 and another walkout April 20 to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. At least 15 schools from Minnesota have indicated they will participate in the March 4 event.
Minneapolis Public Schools says it was aware of the planned walkouts and respects students' right to peacefully assemble. The school district says students will not be disciplined as long as the protest remains peaceful, but students who walk out of school unexcused will not be able to return to school for the rest of the day or participate in after-school activities.
MINNEAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS STATEMENT
Last week’s school shooting in Florida made an impact on people across our country. While we have policies in place to keep our students safe to the best of our ability, many people are wondering what else can be done. Across the nation, students have been especially active in speaking out on this issue, and they have organized a number of activities in response to the shooting.
Minneapolis Public Schools is keeping track of these events and shared resources last week with schools and posted them on social media and our website. We encourage you to have conversations with your student about your expectations and participation in non-school sponsored activities. As a reminder, we have procedures in place regarding non-school activities, including walkouts. You can learn more at emss.mpls.k12.mn.us.
MPS POLICY ON STUDENT WALKOUTS
MPS respects students’ First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. We will not discipline students for the act of protesting as long as the protest remains peaceful. However, according to MPS policy, if students walk out of school unexcused, they will not be able to return to the school for the remainder of the day or participate in after-school activities.
In the event of a walkout:
School leaders will help make sure students leave the building in an orderly fashion.
Middle school students will be required to have parent/guardian permission before being allowed to exit the school building.
Leaving the building may result in an unexcused absence.
Students who leave will not be allowed back in, including for evening activities, practices and athletic events.
We work to ensure student and staff safety while maintaining a stable learning environment for students who remain in the building.
While students will not be disciplined for protesting or demonstrating, any other infractions that take place during the protest or demonstration will be addressed in accordance with our discipline policy.