What NJ students said during walkouts against gun violence
TRENTON — Students around New Jersey walked out of class as part of the National School Walkout Day on the one month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women's March, students left class at 10 a.m. and observed 17 minutes of silence, one minute for each of those killed at the school.
A majority of the school's 1,600 students walked onto the cold football field at Princeton High School and listened to the names of the 17 slain victims. Several residents also stood on the sidewalk outside the field holding anti-gun violence signs in support of the students.
Junior May Kotsen said she thought the walkout would be a good way to show solidarity with the victims.
"Thoughts and prayers only do so much and we really need action in order to change things," Kotsen said.
She said it is "super important" for students to tell politicians that if they accept contributions from the National Rifle Association students will not support them and to campaign for candidates who share their view.
Kotsen said there has been discussion between students who think the walkout is useless and those who strongly support gun rights.
"Walkouts give teenagers a voice," Kotsen said.
Another organizer of the walkout, 16-year-old Talia Fiester, said the idea of the walkout is simple.
“We want stricter gun laws, we don’t want school shootings to happen again, we want to be the generation to end gun violence.” She said students want “universal background checks for guns, mandatory mental health checks banning all war weapons, just like every other developed nation has, it’s a little absurd that the United States still doesn’t have that.”
Fiester said one underlying themes here is students don’t feel safe.
“Students are always going to feel the threat of a shooting happening at our school, just because we see one on the news almost every day.”
When asked if she felt these ongoing student protests will have any meaningful, lasting impact she said it’s possible they won’t but “there are times in history when there are movements that have so much importance behind them that they don’t die down and change actually happens.”
Third co-organzier Ruth Schultz echoed Fiester. “In the back of our heads when we go to school, we do wonder, are we next? Like, am I going to come home today? That’s not something I think kids should have to think about, especially the younger ones.”
Princeton police blocked off the streets around both the high school and middle school where students walked onto the field and formed a heart.
All the high school students then walked back into the school to participate in seminars on mental health awareness, community service and petitioning elected officials.
Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset, also addressed the students .
Rosa Rodriquez was the only student to walk out of Sayreville War Memorial High School, according to 1010 WINS, where students were threatened with a two-day suspension. Video showed her standing on the edge of Washington Road in front of then with a Sayreville police car parked next to her.
Around the state:
- 300 students walked around the track at Shawnee High School in Medford, rang a bell and read a bio about every Parkland victim as part of an event called "March for School Safety and Security," according to organizer Brett Johnson. She said students gave speeches centered around mental health and civic engagement. "Outside the track, we had three tables with voter registration forms, mental health resources, and contact information for our representatives and templates for calling. I also made available information on things such as red flag laws, background checks, and gun suicide," the senior said.
- About 350 students from Lakewood High School chanted "grades up guns down" and "never forget never again, according to the Lakewood Scoop.
- Some Linden High students participated in the walkout and left the building while others stayed inside sitting silently in hallways as the names of the victims were read, according to spokesman Gary Miller.
- Communications High School in Wall had a rally indoors and a walkout, according to the Asbury Park Press.
- The Asbury Park Press reported 712 students at Donovan Catholic attended a prayer service.
- Hundreds of students walked out at Passaic High School, according to NorthJersey.com
- Good Morning America showed video of students at Cherry Hill West walking the track.
- Buses blocked the entrance to West Milford High School where students stayed in the building, according to NorthJersey.com
Atlantic City Police put Atlantic City High School on lockdown as the walkout was getting underway. A student received a threatening text that said weapons were hidden in the immediate area outside of the school and alerted police who were already at the school for the walkout.
The lockout was lifted and students dismissed as normal around 1 p.m.
A walkout at Hackensack High School was canceled over "security concerns." Instead, they viewed presentation on the school's closed circuit television station in support of Stoneman students.
An anonymous threat made late Tuesday night against the Clearview Regional High School district led to the cancelation of classes on Wednesday, according to Harrison Township police. The department continued to investigate the source of the threat.
A 15-year-old Toms River school district student was taken into custody after making a post alluding to violence on Instagram, according to Toms River police. The walkout activities went on as scheduled at schools.
Adam Hochran and David Matthau contributed to this report.
Not everyone supportive: