FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ Their message for tougher gun control was strong, but their numbers were much sparser than at more recent demonstrations.
Students around South Florida left classrooms Friday as part of a national protest against gun violence. It was their second walkout in two months, with calls for universal background checks and more regulation of semiautomatic weapons.
GOPUSA Editor’s Note: The message isn’t “strong.” It’s one sided, and tilted firmly to the left. These marches are not about school safety in general. They are about gun control. And these political protests are being allowed by our taxpayer-funded public schools. This is not right, and if the students want to protest, they can do it after school.
Nationally, more than 2,700 walkouts took place, according to the National School Walkout website. Some students left class for a few minutes while others headed to rallies at their statehouses. The protest was timed to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., that left 15 dead, including the two perpetrators.
We are still walking out however the Columbine community will be committing 4/20 to volunteering
Once again we are still walking out
We are still walking out
We are still walking out
We are still walking out @schoolwalkoutUS has been working incredibly hard on this
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) April 16, 2018
At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staffers were shot to death on Feb. 14, a crowd estimated at 50 walked to a nearby park. That was in stark contrast to the thousands in Parkland who left one month after the massacre, and the millions who attended the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C.
But political science professors say it’s hard for any movement to sustain such levels of participation.
“You can’t measure success in terms of the number of people who show up,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, Tampa.
Primary election votes, and whether they mobilized young voters, will be a better gauge of the movement’s effects, she said.
Sean Foreman, a Barry University in Miami Shores, agreed.
The real test lies in whether they can keep people engaged in an issue that has not sustained interest, he said.
“Many casual observers sympathize with the movement but don’t have the energy to help sustain it,” he said. “When it fades from the news, it might take another high-profile shooting … ”
That’s something Parkland activist David Hogg doesn’t want to see happen. He noted there was a shooting Friday morning at a high school outside Ocala.
“We have to stop this,” he said. “We aren’t going to stop this unless we continue to make our voices heard.”
In Fort Lauderdale, an expected crowd of 100 to 200 students that Calvary Christian Academy organizers wilted to eight kids because of testing. But the handful was buoyed by the surprise crowd of about 30 students from Fort Lauderdale High School who made the 40-minute walk to join them at Fort Lauderdale City Hall.
Organizers at Pembroke Pines Charter High School said they would have probably attracted more than an estimated 70 to 100 out of the 1,600-student school if there hadn’t been testing that day.
After walking two hours from her school to Pembroke Pines City Hall, sophomore Naveen Farouk was feeling euphoric, thrilled with every honk of support her group was getting.
“We think it’s important that we show the world how much we need this change,” she said.
Ariel Feldman, a Cavalry senior from Tamarac, said student activists inspired her to organize her own event at Holiday Park.
“It’s unacceptable that 19 years after Columbine that nothing has been done,” she said. “We don’t want to die in math class.”
Broward and Miami-Dade county schools said they allowed the students to walk out to mark the day _ as long as they stayed on campus to ensure everyone’s safety.
Palm Beach County did not say what discipline students could face if they walked out.
At West Boca Raton Community High School, about 50 students held a “die-in” on school grounds with some of the “dead” wearing targets pinned onto their backs. They laid down in the courtyard and then marched to a flagpole in front of the school for a 20-minute ceremony before going back in, according to senior Riyanna Roeheig.
“We called out the administration for being outdated and insensitive,” she said.
At Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, police escorted 70 students off school grounds, intermittently cutting off traffic at the Interstate 95 ramps to let students safely pass.
“I don’t want to go to school scared,” said junior Ellen Polyakov, 17.
Earlier in the day, about two dozen teachers at Stoneman Douglas waved signs in front of the school and said they did not want to be armed with guns in order to keep students safe. Some of their signs read: “Arm me with school funding,” “Never again,” “End school violence,” and “Common sense gun laws! Our lives may depend on them!”
Alex Wind, one of the student activists with the #NeverAgain movement, high-fived his protesting teachers just before everyone filed back into school. He called them our heroes.
A national day of walkouts already was held in March, but Wind shook his head at the idea that one walkout day was sufficient. “We’re not going to make an impact if we don’t walk out as often as we can,” he said.
Over at Pine Trails Park, down the street from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, a group of mothers of children too young to walk out spent the day signing up new voters with representatives from the League of Women Voters and getting anyone interested to sign various petitions.
Sandi Glausen, 40, mother of two children, aged 10 and 8, said she hadn’t really thought about gun control before the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Now she was holding up her signed “Promise” pledge for a cellphone picture to be posted on Facebook.
Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University, said young voters have historically participated at lower levels than older ones, with the exception of 2008 when President Barack Obama was elected.
“Throughout history, that’s how it’s been,” he said.” The other question is this: Are people going to vote on this issue?”
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