Students from Florida to Chicago started streaming out of their schools in the latest round of gun-control activism after the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Many of the students who joined demonstrations across the country Friday turned their attention to upcoming elections as they pressed for tougher gun laws and politicians who will enact them. Scores of rallies turned into voter registration drives. Students took the stage to issue an ultimatum to their lawmakers.
"We want to show that we're not scared. We want to stop mass shootings and we want gun control," said Binayak Pandey, 16, who rallied with dozens of students outside Georgia's Capitol in Atlanta. "The people who can give us that will stay in office, and the people who can't give us that will be out of office."
Organizers said an estimated 150,000 students protested Friday at more than 2,700 walkouts, including at least one in each state, as they sought to sustain a wave of youth activism that drove a larger round of walkouts on March 14. Activists behind that earlier protest estimated it drew nearly 1 million students.
Friday's action was planned by a Connecticut teenager, Lane Murdock, after a gunman stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, leaving 17 people dead. It was meant to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo.
The focus on the November elections reflects a shift after activists gained little immediate traction in Washington. And prospects for their influence remain uncertain. Congress has shown little inclination to tighten gun laws, and President Donald Trump backed away from his initial support for raising the minimum age to buy some guns.
Among those who helped orchestrate the walkout -- and the voter registration push -- was the progressive group Indivisible, which formed after the 2016 election to oppose Trump's policies.
Several hundred gathered at New York City's Washington Square Park, chanting "The NRA has got to go!" and "Enough is enough." A large group in Washington marched from the White House to the Capitol building to rally for gun control.
In Arkansas, about 30 students gathered in front of the Washington County Courthouse after walking from their classes at Fayetteville High School.
The students held signs and chanted slogans at passing vehicles and received a few supportive honks.
Pamela Smith, a spokesman for the Little Rock School District, said a few schools in the district held a moment of silence, but she was unsure if any students walked out.
Officials at the North Little Rock and Bryant school districts were not aware of any students who participated in a protest. No Conway public school students walked out, a district spokesman said.
There were no student walkouts at The Academies at Jonesboro High School, a staff member said Friday, and students in the Westside Consolidated School District were out of school because of an unused snow day.
Westside Middle School was the site of a school shooting March 24, 1998, that left five dead -- four students and a teacher -- and 10 others wounded.
Shortly before the walkouts, news spread that there had been another shooting at a Florida school. Authorities say one student shot another in the ankle at Forest High School in Ocala early Friday. A suspect was taken into custody. Activists said it underscored the urgency of their work.
Student David Hogg, a Parkland survivor who has emerged as a leading activist, took to social media nearly every day this week urging students to register. On Thursday he made the motivation clear on Twitter: "The only way to make politicians listen to us is by voting in ones that will," he said.
The walkouts drew counter-protesters in some areas, including about 30 at a rally outside New Hampshire's statehouse. In Kansas, about 200 gun-rights supporters held their own demonstration outside the statehouse. Many carried signs and flags, and some brought holstered handguns.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican candidate for governor, addressed the crowd and later criticized the walkout movement.
"Instead of walking out of class, why don't you stay in class and spend that half hour studying the Second Amendment? You might learn something," Kobach said.
Some students in Colorado participated in the walkouts but not at Columbine, which has closed on April 20 ever since the 1999 shooting that left 15 people dead.
Information for this article was contributed by Collin Binkley, Terry Spencer, Verena Dobnik, Denise Lavoie, Jeff Martin and Mitchell Willetts of The Associated Press; by Stacy Ryburn of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; by Cynthia Howell of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; and by Polly Irungu of Arkansas Online.
A Section on 04/21/2018
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