According to the youth chapter, Empower, of the Women's March, an estimated one million students participated in the National School Walkout rally on Wednesday. The organizers released a press statement on the evening of the nationwide rally and praised the remarkable outpour of support for the anti-gun violence cause.
National student leader for Empower, Winter Minisee said the movement was anything but over. She said, according to the press release,
Today, the inspiring number of students who participated in #ENOUGH walkouts, despite some schools threatening disciplinary action, made one thing very clear: young people have a voice, we have numbers, we have power and we will not be silenced.
Minisee added, "If our elected officials aren’t listening to us, we will vote, bring our power to the polls, and we will vote them out in November. Enough is enough. We demand action."
Throughout the United States, thousands of students took the streets to protest gun violence in the country while demanding better legislative measures aimed at reducing the number of mass shootings. The walkout was planned after a school shooting took place in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. That incident killed of 17 teachers and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
To commemorate the memories of the students and teachers killed, the National School Walkout rally held 17 minutes of silence for each death. The walkout, which took place in different states and different timezones in the United States, began on the morning of March 14.
The student-led National School Walkout connected its protest to other horrific shooting incidents in the country. In fact, one of the symbolic gestures made by the students involved wearing the color orange in the form of shirts, pins, hoodies, and other things. There's a reason why orange was the signature color for the National School Walkout protesters. The organizers explained that they were taking inspiration from another and similar movement that started in 2013.
The color orange for the protests was chosen to remember the young Hadiya Pendleton who was killed in a shooting in Chicago in 2013. After Pendleton's horrific death, her family began the #WearOrange movement and explained that they wore the color for the young girl. According to the We Are Orange website, that was the color chosen because "[o]range is what hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others from harm. Orange is a bright, bold color that demands to be seen. Orange expresses our collective hope as a nation — a hope for a future free from gun violence." Ever since then, as far as anti-gun violence protests are concerned, orange is part of the larger gun prevention movement.
During the walkout on Wednesday, students held signs, sang chants, and explained their own reasons for attending the various rallies in the country. One student from New York named Cate Whiteman told CNN that the issue of curbing American gun violence wasn't an entirely left or right position and that it should receive bipartisan support.
"This is not a matter of left versus right. We're all working together, which is something we haven't seen from the adults in a very long time." The walkout focused on a few essential demands such as telling the Congress to cut access to assault weapons for civilians and make sure that background checks were robust and foolproof so that troubled individuals weren't allowed near firearms.
The rally attracted different responses. Some students said they were threatened with punishment, such as suspension. In New Jersey, MSNBC News reported that district officials threatened students with two days of suspension if they decided to join the Wednesday rally.
But some parents of eager students support their choice to attend the walkout, including one mother, Lisa Whiteman, who told MSNBC News that suspending students for such a cause was wrong. "I think we need to show solidarity," Whiteman said.