Thousands of students, administrators and teachers across Georgia and the country are expected to walk out Wednesday for the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The Parkland massacre, where 17 students and adults were gunned down by Nikolas Cruz with an AR-15, has sparked a national movement of young people who have taken up gun regulation as their battle cry.
The movement, led by student survivors at Parkland, has lobbied the Florida legislature. And there’s real evidence their work is paying off: On Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that, among other things, raised the age of gun ownership from 18 to 21.
The first national walkout to commemorate the Parkland tragedy is being held on Wednesday at 10:10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for every life lost. It is being organized nationally by young people working with Women’s March Youth EMPOWER.
In Georgia, school-sanctioned walkouts are being held in many districts including Fulton, Clayton, Henry and Dekalb counties. In Grady High School, in the heart of Atlanta, student leaders have said that students find the active school support around the planned walkout confusing.
“They [students] worry that the school is taking too active of a role,” said Lily Muscarella, a Grady junior who is helping lead the walkout. “They’ve done other protests, but all against the administration — they don’t know how to respond now that the administration is so actively on their side.”
Tuesday the walkout’s leader, Grady senior Cali Chalfant, sent out an email saying that the walkout was being done in solidarity with the administration and their call for safety and gun regulation — not against them.
Muscarella sees the issue as one of safety for both administrators and teachers. She said the Parkland shooting was different than the other ones — it hit closer to home — and ignited in her the desire to be at the forefront of creating change.
“I think one reason it was different was because of the videos,” Muscarella said, referring to the live videos that students took during the shooting. “I could hear the sounds and I imagined that it could be me.”
Wednesday’s walkout at Grady High School will take place after their first period. Participants will walk out on the football field for a moment of silence, a few students will speak and then participants will take a lap around the field.
Future demonstrations against gun violence are planned around the country for March 24 and April 20.