Thousands of students staged walkouts at schools and college campuses across the country Thursday to demand stricter gun control in the wake of the Texas school massacre that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Starting at noon ET, waves of students — some wearing orange, the color of the gun violence prevention movement — abandoned their classes and headed outside to protest, often accompanied by their teachers and cheered on by their parents.
“I think there is something so devastating about 10-year-olds being killed, and students across the country are realizing this could have been any of us,” said Maddie Ahmadi, 17, a junior at Essex High School in Essex Junction, Vermont.
Outside Los Angeles, more than 150 students at Crescenta Valley High School walked out of their classes at noon.
"Unfortunately, this has not been the first time we students have been forced to act," said senior Roan Thibault, 17, who remembered being in middle school the first time he took part in a walkout to demand more gun control after the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
"It's a shame lawmakers have not been listening to us," he said. "Two years ago there was a threat at my high school, which turned out to be nothing. But for many of us it was the most frightening moment of our lives."
The nationwide protests were organized by a group called Students Demand Action, which is affiliated with the pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Enough is enough,” the students group said on the internet “toolkit” it used to organize the nationwide protests. “Once again, gun violence has forced its way into our schools. … We need more than thoughts and prayers. We demand action from our lawmakers now.”
The student group noted on its website that gun violence was the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the U.S.
“It’s impossible to say exactly how many students took part, but we know we had over 200 events where hundreds of students took part,” said Sarah Harris, a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety. “This is not the first time students have advocated for gun safety in the wake of a tragedy.”
Students at Ahmadi's school in Vermont staged their walkout Wednesday.
“It was the first walkout in the country, and we did it at 10:50 a.m., right in the middle of classes, because we knew that was when the most students and teachers would be in the school,” Ahmadi said. “Our teachers walked out with us.”
Ahmadi said that students at her school have staged protests before but that the tragedy in Texas struck them especially hard.
She acknowledged that making a difference in the gun control debate is an uphill battle.
“Sadly, we know these moments of collective action don’t lead to immense change,” Ahmadi said. “But we know that at least a hundred Americans die every day from gunfire, and my hope is that students will keep up the pressure to get the politicians to do something about it.”
In Michigan, one of the most poignant demonstrations took place Thursday at Oxford High School.
Four students were killed and seven other people — including a teacher — were wounded in November at the high school about 45 miles north of Detroit by a 15-year-old sophomore who police said used a gun his parents bought him to wreak havoc.
When the Oxford High School students emerged, they were met with applause from many parents parked across the street, who kept clapping as they marched across the campus to the football field. There, the students formed a big "U" in memory of the children and the teachers killed Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.
“It meant a lot to me because of the shooting that happened," Andrew Sholtz, 16, a sophomore, told The Detroit News. "We went through the same thing. I lost a lot of friends. I thought it would be respectful to help other people through it."