Wilson students were some of the thousands of youth across the country who walked out of class this morning to urge Congress to pass stricter gun legislation. The nationwide walkouts come one month after seventeen high schoolers in Parkland, Florida were killed by a classmate armed with assault rifles that he had purchased legally.
At 9:55 a.m., hundreds of Wilson students poured out of classes and headed to the atrium, where they took a seat on the floor. Leaders of the Human Rights Club and Common Ground, the groups that organized the demonstration, gave brief speeches. “We are protesting Congress’s refusal to take action on the gun violence plaguing our schools and cities,” said Claire Shaw, the Human Rights Club leader. “We are the next generation of voters and the next generation of elected officials. We will make the change we wish to see,” she said.
Common Ground leader Nas Fair then read the names of the students killed in the Parkland shooting, along with the names of Wilson community members who have lost their lives to gun violence in recent years.
In the minutes that followed, students and staff sat in silence to honor the lives cut short by gun violence. Despite concerns prior the event that there would be noise or disruption during the demonstration, the hundreds of students gathered in the atrium were almost completely silent.
For some, the demonstration was especially powerful and personal. “I walked out of class today because I lost two friends to gun violence in the past six months,” said Diamond Hunter, a senior. “I’m tired, I’m heartbroken, I’m angry. We as young people need to get into politics. We are going to be the ones that make the change,” she said.
Frustration at Congress’s action has been a central facet of the growing gun control movement, and it was certainly prevalent at the demonstration. “It is repulsive to me that NRA-backed legislators care more about profits than they do student safety,” said Alessandra Guy, a junior.
The administration expressed support for the demonstration and worked with student organizers to coordinate the event. “DCPS encourages and supports students exercising their First Amendment rights,” wrote Principal Kimberly Martin in an email to parents and students Tuesday.
While Wilson students remained inside the building, many students in neighboring school districts left school and took their demonstration to the Capitol building, where they were greeted by lawmakers. “We’ve done a lot of walkouts in the past year. This time, we really wanted to show that we’re not just walking out to miss school. We’re staying in school to show our solidarity, to show that we actually want to impact change,” said Addie Alexander, a Common Ground leader.•
PHOTOS BY ELENA REMEZ AND JACKSON FOX-BLAND