Tens of thousands of students, emboldened by a growing protest movement over gun violence, stood up in their classrooms on Wednesday and walked out of their schools in a nationwide demonstration, one month after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The protests—which lasted 17 minutes, one minute for each of the victims—were intended to pressure Congress to approve gun control legislation in the aftermath of the Florida massacre. The nationwide school walkouts are taking place 10 days before a march on Washington is planned for March 24 to continue pressing lawmakers for action on guns and school safety.
Just hours after the walkouts began, Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of carrying out the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, was scheduled to appear in a Florida courtroom. Prosecutors said Tuesday they intend to seek the death penalty against Cruz.
On Wednesday, the first large wave of students began to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Across the country, others were scheduled to walk out at 10 a.m. in their local time zones.
“Students don’t get to voice their opinion very often and it’s thrilling to be one of the millions across the United States who will have that option,” says Katie Cummins, a high school student in Louisville, Kentucky, about why she participated in the walkout. “The students at Stoneman Douglas who have spoken out and become activists are incredibly inspiring.”