Wednesday, March 14, 2018 (SFGate.com)
Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle. Students who walked out of classes march on Market Street to call for strict gun control in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. The walkout was part of a nationwide response by students to protest against gun violence one month after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Hundreds of students at schools across San Francisco walked out of class at 10 a.m. Wednesday, joining untold thousands of their peers nationwide in what was the largest coordinated school-day protest in recent memory.
The National School Walkout comes a month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed by a former student.
Students from both Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and The Academy, which share a campus in the Twin Peaks neighborhood, poured out of their schools and into the courtyard, joined by school staff and Mayor Mark Farrell.
“Our labor movement, our civil rights movement, so many movements have started with our youth and it’s so inspiring to be here today with the students of San Francisco,” he said. “Enough is enough and this is where we’re going to see the difference — these youth leaders.”
The students gave speeches, sang the song “Prayer for the Children” and then recited the names of the Parkland victims as their solemn classmates stood in silence.
“We’re very tired of having our fellow students across the nation die, and seeing nothing being done about it,” said Ben McLaren, 17, a senior at the School of the Arts. “This time we’re trying to keep the momentum going.”
After a 30-minute walkout at the school, some students returned to class, while others headed to City Hall, where students from several city schools were expected to gather to protest gun violence.
Hundreds of teens huddled under umbrellas and hoodies in the rain in the Civic Center, where they called on legislators to increase school safety and push for stronger gun control.
In front of City Hall, students from 21 city schools gathered on the steps while carrying handmade signs.
“Books, not bullets,” read one. “Give teachers raises not gun,” said another.
The Parkland shooting “could have just as easily been my school,” said Claire Garcia, a senior at Lowell High School. “School is a place of learning; it’s not a place to be afraid.”
Student organizer Katie Dragone, a senior, said she wants the walkout to push politicians to act.
“I’m here today trying to help a movement that is trying to save children’s lives and prioritize our health and well being over someone’s right to own a semi-automatic assault weapon, which should not be in civilian hands to start with,” she said.
A couple hundred students headed down Market Street to the Ferry Building, and continued along The Embarcadero and eventually toward Ghirardelli Square for more speeches and another moment of silence.
The Bay Area walkouts followed those in New York, Houston, Denver, Parkland, Fla., and other cities across the country, where thousands of students poured out of schools Wednesday as the clock struck 10 a.m. in each time zone.
In Parkland, the teenage survivors of the mass shooting walked out to the sound of helicopters overhead, bringing back vivid memories of Feb. 14, said David Hogg, one of the student organizers advocating for government action to end school gun violence.
“Nothing about this is going to be easy,” he said in a live-streamed video posted on Twitter. “We have to continue to fight for our lives. Each and every one of these individuals is a person that could have died that day. I could have died that day.”
In Washington, D.C., a throng of students marched to the White House and sat on the ground with their backs to the president’s home before continuing on to the Capitol building, where they called for increased gun control.
In some cases, public officials joined students as they held moments of silence for the Parkland victims. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo chanted, “Protect our kids,” as he stood with New York City students.
An hour later, in the Central time zone, students in Chicago, Memphis and Houston left their classrooms, followed an hour later by peers in Denver and Salt Lake City.
In California, students in elementary, middle and high schools participated in the walkout. At Presidio Middle School in San Francisco, students sat or lay down in the hallways for 17 minutes of silence, one minute for each of the Parkland victims.
At Berkeley High School, students formed a peace sign on the football field. And at
Local school district reactions to the walkout varied, with some officials changing the day’s schedule to include a mid-morning break at 10 a.m., while administrators elsewhere said students who miss class for any reason will be given unexcused tardies or absences.
In the days before the walkout, some education officials in Texas and other states threatened to suspend students who participated in the protest.
The American Civil Liberties Union advised districts that legally they can’t punish students more harshly for a protest than they would for any other unexcused absence.