Five days after 17 people were gunned down at a Florida high school, teenagers staged a "lie-in" outside the White House to demand that the government do more to prevent future mass shootings. Dozens of students took turns lying on the ground for three seconds to illustrate just how quickly the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter took so many lives. These photos of students' White House lie-in offer a glimpse into how teenagers across the country are advocating for gun control.
Two 16-year-olds from the Washington, D.C. area organized the demonstration, using social media to get the word out, according to Victoria Sanchez, a reporter for local TV station WJLA. The group lying on the sidewalk outside the White House gate was surrounded by a crowd holding American flags and signs with messages like "Is Congress or the NRA making our laws?" and "Am I next?"
The same crowd chanted "We call bullsh*t!" as a tribute to Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez's speech calling out the politicians who offered "thoughts and prayers" after the tragedy. "Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call B.S.," Gonzalez said Saturday at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale.
President Trump isn't due back at the White House until Monday evening, after spending the holiday weekend in Florida. Nevertheless, photos of the "lie-in" show the students' dedication to getting his and lawmakers' attention.
Robert O'Brien, a 17-year-old high school student from nearby McLean, Virginia, participated in the demonstration and told reporters schools should be safe havens for students — not a place they get gunned down. "It doesn't need to be a place like a war zone," he said.
O'Brien also touched on why teenagers should be standing up to their representatives in Washington — "You think you don't have a voice, maybe you're too young, but you can make a difference."
Since the school shooting on Wednesday, students have quickly taken on gun control activism. Along with Gonzalez's impassioned speech, her classmates have also gone on the news and taken to social media to demand adults make it more difficult for dangerous people to buy guns in America. As fellow survivor David Hogg told CNN:
We're children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.
Gonzalez and Hogg have also come together with other survivors to form the group Never Again MSD (in reference to the initials of their high school). The group's Facebook page says it's run by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting who are "sick of the Florida lawmakers choosing money from the NRA over our safety." The students plan to stop attending school until politicians make progress on gun reform.
Stoneman Douglas High survivors' resolve to make their tragedy the last school shooting in America set a different tone for the aftermath of the third mass shooting in a U.S. school in the first months of 2018. While mass shootings have become so common in the U.S. that they're often swept under the rug as the news cycle moves on to another issue, activists across the nation are determined to break the cycle.
Students and teachers will stage a national school walkout on March 14 to demand Congress take action. Survivors and other activists will also storm the streets in Washington D.C. on March 24 in a March For Our Lives rally — so Monday's student lie-in may only be the beginning.
Other signs at the lie-in read, "Love your kids, not your guns" and "Thoughts and prayers don't save lives; gun reform will."
Student activists are tired of politicians sending condolences after a shooting but failing to change gun laws — and they're going to make sure those politicians know it.