It’s been 19 years since the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, a little more than two months since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and just a few hours since a student in Ocala was hit with a bullet in his ankle.
A few dozen Stoneman Douglas students walked out of school at 10 a.m. on Friday to mark the anniversary of Columbine, which they see as the start of a plague of school shootings in the United States — and what should have been the end.
“It's transitioned from Columbine to now Stoneman Douglas. We have one commonality between us, which is this terrible tragedy that has happened to both of our schools,” junior Alex Wind said. “We need to show that we stand together.”
Two students carried a large banner from the Parkland school down the street to a nearby park and unfurled it on the floor under a gazebo. In blue paint were the words “Never Again” — the slogan Stoneman Douglas students have used to describe the renewed national gun control movement they have led since the Feb. 14 shooting that resulted in 17 deaths. Red footprints tracked across the poster. Students took turns signing it and plan to send it to Columbine.
After the walkout, some students planned to join in Columbine’s tradition of performing community service on the anniversary.
As they walked out, students were chatting about news of another shooting at a school in the central Florida city of Ocala. According to local news reports, a student at Forest High School shot at a closed classroom door and struck a fellow student in the ankle.
David Hogg, who has become a prominent national icon for gun control since the shooting, was live streaming video from inside Stoneman Douglas High as students gathered in a courtyard before making their way outside.
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) April 20, 2018
Hogg and his peers organized the massive March For Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., on March 24 as well as several other rallies and walk outs. He said their focus will now shift toward inspiring young people to register to vote and go to the polls in November.
“We’re going to outlive these politicians. We’re the future. And if they choose to stand against us, that’s fine — we’ll vote them out,” Hogg said.
Meanwhile, a student who has emerged as a conservative counterpoint to his peers’ push for gun control organized a separate event dubbed, “Walk UP, not out.”
On Twitter, Kyle Kashuv live streamed a series of conservative speakers, including former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and former congressman Joe Walsh.
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) April 20, 2018
Kurt Schlichter is a columnist for the website townhall.com. He defended the Second Amendment on Kashuv’s video.
“When someone abuses it, when someone commits a horrible crime, that’s a terrible thing,” Schlichter said. “And it’s easy to say, ‘Well, you know, if they didn’t have the ability to commit this crime, why, this crime wouldn’t happen.’
“That’s an error because it involves the violation of a natural right,” he said. “Natural rights are important, they’re what make us a free people.”
Earlier Friday, Stoneman Douglas teachers who knew they wouldn’t be able to leave their classrooms during the school day decided to protest in the morning instead.
About two dozen teachers gathered on a strip of grass along the sidewalk in front of the school at 7 a.m. on Friday. They waved signs, chanted and talked to reporters until they had to leave to teach their first classes at 7:35 a.m.
"We have a job to do. We can’t just walk out of the classroom,” said English teacher Felicia Burgin. She said the teachers wanted to support the students, though, so their compromise was to demonstrate before school hours.
On the way to school, she heard local radio hosts talking about the national walkout planned to mark the Columbine anniversary. They disapproved.
“They’re like, well then you would have to do Sandy Hook. And then you would have to do this one. And I thought, well, that’s the point," she said. "There shouldn’t be so many anniversaries for the kids to walk out.”
One student approached the group of teachers, asking: “Does this mean we won’t have any homework?”
Stoneman Douglas history teacher Greg Pittman told her walking out is her homework.
The student clapped and screamed: “Yay!”
WLRN reporter Caitie Switalski contributed reporting.