A small group of students poured out of Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School on Friday to call for stricter gun control laws and safer schools.
About 10 students walked out of their classes at 11 a.m. and headed to a flagpole on Victory Memorial Parkway a few miles away, chanting “protect our school, save our students” and holding signs that read “Make a difference and stop the violence.”
For these students, protesting gun violence goes beyond showing solidarity with other young people who have staged similar rallies. To them, it’s personal. About a week after the deadly shootings at a Parkland, Fla., high school last year, a man believed to be armed stormed into Patrick Henry. No one was hurt, but the incident left many students feeling shaken, the protesters said. The only thing that will keep them safer, they say, is stricter gun control laws.
“We were so close to something that could have been so terrible,” said organizer Elliot Gunderman, a Patrick Henry senior. “But we were shook, and mass shootings are still happening.”
Minneapolis school district officials did not block the student walkout, but they said the departures from school will be counted as an unexcused absence. Students were not allowed to return to school after the protest, officials said.
Last year, Gunderman joined scores of students in the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C., organized by the Florida students who survived one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. That historic movement motivated Gunderman to mobilize peers at Patrick Henry. In March, Gunderman and others plan to commemorate the anniversary of March for Our Lives by taking Metro Transit to the Capitol to press lawmakers to take action on gun control.
“We’re fighting to protect our right to life and protect generations after us,” Gunderman said. “We don’t want anyone to worry about these sorts of things anymore.”
Yeng Vang, a senior, said he joined the walkout because he’s fed up with feeling unsafe at school.
“I don’t want to live in fear, especially after what happened to us,” Vang said. “I want a safer school.”