South Florida Students Walk Out Of Schools To Protest Gun Violence

Mar 14, 2018

Exactly one month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, students across South Florida and the rest of the country walked out of their classrooms  to protest gun violence. 

Students from Palm Beach to Miami-Dade County walked out of class at precisely 10 a.m. Some wore orange, the color of the gun prevention movement. At Stoneman Douglas High, many students chose to wear maroon, the school color. 

"Everyone came and started walking, then we had the teachers and administrators, everyone jumping in and making sure that it's safe and organized," said Sinan Kassim, an 8th grader at West Glades Middle School who walked to Stoneman Douglas High next door. 

In several schools, they were greeted by parents and other members of the community, who showed up to support the students during the protests. 

The ENOUGH National School Walkout originated from EMPOWER, a youth branch of the Women's March. They called for participants around the country to wear orange, the color of the gun violence prevention movement and walk out of their classroom at 10 a.m. local time. The walkout lasted 17 minutes, one minute for each life taken during the school shooting on Feb. 14.

The students demanded better gun control, including universal background checks for all gun sales and a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. 

Students walked out of class and into a fenced area outside of the school auditorium at Turner Tech.

Reporters were not allowed inside, but some of the passionate speeches were audible from the sidewalk.

One student talked about how dozens of Miami-Dade County Public School students have been killed or injured by gun violence in their neighborhood.

Josh Toombs is a senior at the school. He waved over a reporter to talk through the chain link fence.

He said he stands with student at Stoneman Douglas and had this message for the public about what the day symbolizes for him:

“I want ya’ll to know it’s not just for the people at Stoneman Douglas High School. It’s for those kids walking after school that get shot. Little boys outside getting shot by stray bullets and stuff, that’s what this is about, it’s not just mass shootings.”

Josh said the students at Turner Tech were told they didn’t have to wear their school uniforms today. Instead, those who lost family members or friends to gun violence could wear Rest In Peace Memorial shirts.

There were several of those in the crowd.

There at least six police officers around the perimeter of the school. Miami-Dade has said students can't walk off campus. That’s in direct contradiction to the ACLU, which maintains it their right if they want to and they actually should not be stopped from doing so. 

Dozens of student from Blanche Ely High School spilled into the streets, walking off campus. They walked to Northeast High School where students at first were not being allowed to leave campus. 

Florisa Moulton, 18, a senior at Ely, said she and the other protesters were chanting and rallying for their peers to be let out. 

Some of the students at Northeast, in direct defiance of their school administrators, started jumping fences to join the protest.

"We rallied out here until they finally opened the gates and let students out," said Moulton, adding, "We will demand for our voices to be heard and we will not stop until it's done," 

The Women's March Website reports 2,853 organized school walkouts around the country. It is also providing a "tool kit" to help students organize protests, stay safe and know their rights. The kit includes a video explaining students' rights, a legal support hotline, press release templates and sample letters for  legislators and school staff. 

Guidelines for college students to participate are also listed in the document. 

Voter registration drives for those coming of age are encouraged and steps on how to organize them are also listed. 

In a statement, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) said that it "supports our students' rights to make their voices heard and encourages peaceful and lawful protests only." The district also indicated that, "any violations of the Student Code of Conduct will be handled by individual schools.In the event that students walk out or gather, school principals have been informed to direct and remain with students in a designated area to ensure supervision is in place."

Adults not affiliated with the schools are asked to avoid protesting alongside the students for safety reasons.