FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2017, file photo, Aztec High School students and area residents gather for a candlelight vigil in Aztec, N.M., after a shooting at the high school. While students across the country plan walkouts to protest gun violence, teens at the New Mexico high school still reeling after two classmates were gunned down in December by an armed intruder have organized a “walk-up” to help unify a campus with varied ideas on school safety. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

US students stage school walkouts to protest gun violence

Students across the country plan walkouts to protest gun violence

Young people in the U.S. walked out of class to demand action on gun violence Wednesday in what activists hoped would be the biggest demonstration of student activism yet in response to last month’s massacre in Florida.

More than 3,000 walkouts were planned across the U.S. and around the world, organizers said. Students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Students from elementary school to college planned to take up the call in a variety of ways. Some were expected to hold roadside rallies to honour shooting victims and protest violence. Others planned demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Massachusetts and Ohio, students said they would head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun laws.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened discipline.

Related: 7,000 pairs of shoes laid out in Washington, D.C., to honour kids killed by gun violence

The co-ordinated walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women’s March, which brought thousands to Washington last year.

Although the group wanted students to shape protests on their own, it also offered them a list of demands for lawmakers, including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.

“Our elected officials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to this violence,” the organization said on its website.

Other protests planned in coming weeks include the March for Our Lives rally for school safety, which organizers say is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital on March 24. Another round of school walkouts is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High shooting in Colorado.

Related: Students head to Florida capital to press for gun law change

Some students in Massachusetts said that after Wednesday’s protest, they planned to rally outside the Springfield headquarters of the gun maker Smith & Wesson.

At Case Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, a group of fifth-graders were organizing a walkout with the help of teachers after seeing parallels in a video they watched about youth marches for civil rights in 1963. Case instructors said 150 or more students were expected to line the sidewalk, carrying posters with the names of Parkland victims.

The walkouts drew support from companies including media conglomerate Viacom, which planned to pause programming on MTV, BET and all its other networks for 17 minutes during the walkouts.

Districts in Sayreville, New Jersey, and Maryland’s Harford County drew criticism this week when they said students could face punishment for leaving class.

In suburban Atlanta, one of Georgia’s largest school systems announced that students who participated might face unspecified consequences.

But some vowed to walk out anyway.

“Change never happens without backlash,” said Kara Litwin, a senior at Pope High School in the Cobb County School District.

The possibility of being suspended “is overwhelming, and I understand that it’s scary for a lot of students,” said Lian Kleinman, a junior at Pope High. “For me personally, this is something I believe in. This is something I will go to the ends of the Earth for.”

Other schools sought a middle ground, offering “teach-ins” or group discussions on gun violence.

Meanwhile, free speech advocates geared up for a battle. The American Civil Liberties Union issued advice for students who walk out, saying schools can’t legally punish them more harshly because of the political nature of their message. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas, some lawyers said they would provide free legal help to students who are punished.

___

Collin Binkley, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Mayoral candidate concerned about unfettered growth

Mick Rhodes also wants to create new park

Sooke OCP amendment pits neighbour against neighbour

Bylaw change only temporary solution, says councillor

Municipalities can help tent cities with provincial aid, says UBCM president

Provincial housing efforts can be facilitated on local level

Cool Aid Society cleans up Woodwynn Farms

Casual labour pool helps to clear debris

Vancouver pianists make Sidney debut with four-hand repertoire

Scott and Clare Meek perform classical and salsa in Sidney

Live bear cam: Let the fishing begin

Watch bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park catch their dinner live.

B.C. electric vehicle subsidy fund drains faster than expected

Province adds another $10 million to incentive fund

‘I’ll never forgive you:’ Victim impact statements at hearing for Calgary killer

Curtis Healy was found guilty of first-degree murder Friday in the death of Dawns Baptiste.

Man accused of mailing bomb to his brother in B.C. has died

Leon Nepper was found in ‘medical distress’ at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre on Sunday

It’s shaping up to be quite a finish in CFL’s West Division standings

The Calgary Stampeders (10-2) are first, four points ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-5).

Twice-convicted killer set to inherit multimillion-dollar company found guilty of father’s murder

A Toronto judge ruled that Dellen Millard is guilty of first-degree murder in death of his father,

Campaign seeks to add Farsi to B.C. school curriculum options

Group wants Farsi added to list of nine languages in policy covering second language requirements

Trudeau urges leaders to follow Nelson Mandela’s example at UN tribute

Peace summit in New York marks 100th birthday of former South African president

Most Read