Minneapolis high school students walked out of class on Wednesday in protest of political indifference toward mass school shootings such as last week's massacre in Parkland, Florida.
About 150 students from South High School, led by Isra Hirsi, daughter of State Rep. Ilhan Omar, rendezvoused with students from Roosevelt High School at City Hall. They were eventually joined by students from Southwest and Washburn High Schools, who trudged five long miles through snow and ice from south Minneapolis, picking up Mayor Jacob Frey as they passed through Phillips.
Speaking to the cheering crowd outside City Hall, Frey promised to propose a statewide assault weapons ban at the next Intergovernmental Relations committee meeting.
Several students were then permitted to speak at Wednesday afternoon's Intergovernmental Relations committee meeting. They testified about the fear they felt going to school and their frustration with lawmakers' inability to enact meaningful gun control in response to the nation's record of mass shootings.
"Many students across the country can’t take it any more,” said 17-year-old South High senior Ahmed Warsame. “We need actual action. We need actual discussion.”
Below, meet some of the students who participated in Wednesday's walkout:
Iris Fosse-Ober, Washburn High School
What’s the single most important reason you’re out here today?
To stop people from buying guns who aren’t even allowed to get married, buy cigarettes. Especially an assault rifle, it just makes no sense that that could come into the hands of a civilian. It blows my mind that somebody can walk in and just kill all their peers at once. It’s terrifying, and I don’t want to be scared in my school anymore.
Elijah Taylor, 14 (left), and Max Ridenour, 14 (right), Roosevelt High School
How did you find out about the walkout?
I found out about this from an intercom announcement by our vice principal. Both our vice principal and principal encouraged us to participate in this walk out. I’ve had other teachers bring it up too, and that’s something I really admire.
Lucas Auer, 14
Why did you walk out of class to protest today?
We just don’t want to get killed. This isn’t something we should even have to be imagining. Adults aren’t doing anything. What else are we supposed to do?
Omar Ceesay, Southwest High School
When did you start to pay attention to school shootings?
Gun control has been a huge issue in the past four, five years now. When Sandy Hook happened, the little kids that died were my little sister’s age. Me and my little sister are super close. I’m going off to college, and I don’t know what I would do if she passed way because of some crazy stuff that happened at her high school. So that’s why this is so important to me. She’s my diamond in the rough. She’s my everything. She’s my best friend, and if anything were to happen to her, I’d lose myself.
What is one response from the pro-gun lobby that baffles you?
I think the craziest thing I’ve heard is probably that it’s not the guns that kill, it’s the people. Even though it’s the fact you can go out and get a gun so easily. You can go to the Walmart and get a gun for like $100, easy, as long as you’ve got a permit. Why are guns so accessible, military style guns? It’s insane. It’s unethical. OK, I believe if you wanna have a gun, sure, do you, but a whole arsenal, strapped head to toe? Doesn’t make sense. Guns are made to injure, kill, they have no other purpose. It’s not worth it.
Aaron Kletter, 18
We’re the next generation. If this is what we want, Congress should listen. Nobody should be able to walk into a school with a machine gun.
Sharianna Story (center) and Lola Parks (right), Washburn High School
Why do you want gun control?
Parks: The first school shooting that ever happened, that should have been the last. They need to think about what the families are going through, what the kids are going through.
Story: Teachers already have to go through having to deal with kids every single day. If one of my teachers got shot, I know their families would be traumatized. I just don’t want it to happen.
Parks: It’s kind of changing what teaching means. Teachers come here to teach. They don’t come here to like, ‘Oh I might have to take a bullet today.’ That’s not what teaching’s about.
Rory McGrath, 16
What changes you would like to see?
People feel isolated, that’s the reason these shootings happen. There should be more resources for them. We need to make people feel less alone.
Russell Hrubesky, Southwest High School
What do you think would be a reasonable solution to school shootings?
I think it would be good to get more regulation on guns because as a student, it’s such a prevalent threat. School shootings happen so often, it’s important to keep my life and others’ lives safe. If we made it harder to get guns, I think it would save lives. I don’t think it’ll stop all school shootings because people can get guns illegally and all that, but I think we should do what we can.
Charlie Thompson, South High School
Shootings have become too much of a staple in American culture. The Second Amendment is outdated and we have to change the way people think.
Shakwon Jackson (left), Dezja Ellis (center), Joseph Harper (right), Southwest High School
What affected you the most about the Florida school shooting?
Jackson: That kid killed that many people…
Ellis: …And so easily. That kid walked into a school with a gun, ain’t nobody know.
Jackson: Just the fact that he could kill that many people so quickly, in a matter of minutes. They need to ban assault rifles.
Eleanor Paulsen, 16
I’m really pissed off because I don’t want to be afraid to go to school anymore.
Juneau Lueck, Southwest High School
I’m here to keep the energy up, keep people involved, because this is an important issue. We have a lot of friends everywhere and we have connections. We’re like, ‘Guys, a lot of people realize this is an issue we need to stand up for immediately.’
This next generation that I’m a part of, I think we just need to stand up and organize ourselves. That’s what today is about. And I’m just so happy that we were able to organize so many students to come out.
Adaela Brown, 12 (left), Alex Carroll, 12 (right), Justice Page Middle School
Brown: This is my first protest. It was really fun, it was a really good environment where we’re all together. People think middle schoolers don’t care but these things matter a lot to us.
Carroll: We tried to go to the DACA one but we got the time wrong.
Romeo Kurtyka, Loring-Nicollet Alternative School
What’s the most important reason you’re protesting?
Just to have people realize we don’t want your thoughts and prayers, we want change. People are getting killed in these school shootings all the time. The NRA and all these politicians aren’t doing shit about it. We just want gun control.
The NRA has donated to so many politicians, I think it’s just a big problem with money. But people are speaking up more than ever, and I think our generation is a big part of that.
Isra Hirsi (center), South High School
How did you organize this walkout?
One of my friends from Washburn contacted me and asked if South was getting involved and I didn't know if we were, so then I started asking around and posting about it and decided we were going to make this happen. I got a few other people to help me organize. Social media played a huge part in getting all the other schools involved.
Why did you feel like it was up to students to protest today?
Right now, nobody seems to be doing anything, and if nobody's doing anything about it, we are. We are the future and this affects us the most because we could be the next victims. I think students are realizing that they can actually make a change.
Were you nervous speaking in front of that crowd?
Sam Warren, DeLaSalle High School
Why do you think it’s so difficult to move the needle on gun control?
We have a Second Amendment right to carry firearms, but at the same time you have to look at what’s been happening, school shootings. It’s very controversial, and I don’t know if in the end these laws are going to be changed, but I do hope that what we do today and what we do in the future makes an impact.
I heard that there was a football coach [in Florida] who jumped in front of a few female students, and it’s just the fact that a coach has to save lives by taking a bullet really got to me because that could be any coach, any teacher, in any school. We’re trying to make change so that doesn’t happen.