Student Outrage Continues… Walkouts Nationwide Demand an End to Gun Violence

April 23, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


Friday, April 20, thousands of students in over 2,600 schools in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. walked out of their classes and spent the day in marches and protests, expressing their continued outrage at the epidemic of gun violence in schools and in society, and demanding those in power put an end to it. “Enough Is Enough!” The date marked the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting horror at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 15 dead and 21 injured. This was the third major nationwide outpouring, and the second nationwide walkout, by secondary school students since the February 14 massacre that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

From New York to San Francisco, from Houston to Chicago, and from Denver to Washington, D.C., students marched, held rallies with periods of silence, and more. Southern California saw thousands walk out, and hundreds of students marched on City Hall in downtown L.A. More than 1,000 high school students converged on downtown Portland, Oregon, where an 11th grade student was the first to speak: “We are all here because we care about something important. Our silence is recommended, even forced upon us, by this government. But we will not remain silent.” Thousands more students from high schools throughout the Houston area walked out, with some holding rallies on their campuses, and 2,000 rallied downtown.

In New York City an estimated 5,000 students from 35 high schools in all five boroughs of the city as well as from New Jersey and Connecticut rallied for several hours in Washington Square Park. They came in groups small and large, with all kinds of hand-made signs. A huge group of students sat in silence in a circular area in the middle of the park, each one holding the name of one of the 162 people who have been killed since Columbine.

There continues to be a powerful sense among these youth that something is really wrong with a world where kids and teachers are getting killed in their classrooms… where mass shootings can take place in night clubs, at concerts, in churches... over and over again. And they see those with power continuing to do nothing to get to the bottom of it. Their disgust at the NRA, as well as at the politicians they see as bought off into ignoring this epidemic, is visceral. There is real grappling among them over what is the solution to all of this. But to the degree their sights remain focused on guns as the problem, then the solutions will remain focused on “gun control.” And this goes hand-in-hand with the appeal by the Democrats for the students to direct their anger into the voting booth as the way to bring change.

Making the Connection with Police Violence Against People of Color

Some students at these protests were making the connection between “gun violence” and the epidemic of killings of Black, Latino and Native American people by the police. One student in Washington Square Park carried a hand-made sign that read: “People of Color, Shot by Police.” In small letters, he had written the names of Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, and scores of other Black and other oppressed people murdered by the police. Why did he do that? “Because I think one of the main gun violence problems is the police killing Latino people and Black people and Native American people.”

A New York Times reporter wrote that one of the high school organizers of the walkouts in New York spoke to the rally about the killing of Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old father of two young children killed by the Sacramento police barely a month ago, as a part of the same battle that they are waging against gun violence:We will not stop until 58 people can walk into a concert, 49 people can walk into a club, 20 first graders can walk into their classroom, 17 students can walk into their school, 12 people can walk into a movie theater, one black man can walk into his grandmother’s backyard, and all of them can walk out.”

Voter registration was promoted from the stages, on the signs, and by Democratic Party organizers in the crowds signing up the students, even those too young to actually vote, with the message that voting is the way to make the politicians “accountable.” An offshoot of last month’s March for Our Lives—called Vote for Our Lives—kicked off a national voter registration campaign the night before the walkouts, with the catch phrase “We don't need more guns, we need more votes. Vote for our lives.” But this “solution” of relying on the Democrats and the electoral process only corrals people into working to maintain the very system that is responsible for massive violence and oppression—not just in the U.S., but even more so around the world, for decades and decades.

The fact is the source of the epidemic of mass slaughter in this society has been woven into the fabric of this country since its origins: in slavery, genocide, and the theft of territory; and in the political structures, social relations and the institutions of violent suppression necessary to maintain this capitalist-imperialist system down to today. Without getting at these roots, there can be no solution to this epidemic. To understand “gun culture” in this country, you have to understand the history of white reactionaries in enforcing the degradation and oppression of Black people through slavery … then the KKK lynchings of Jim Crow segregation … and now, after the upheavals of Black people in the 1960s, the way white supremacists are “armed to the teeth” to protect “their way of life,” and how racialized violence is fostered not just by the NRA but by politicians all the way to the highest offices of the government. Never forget that Bill Clinton expanded the genocidal mass incarceration of Black people and other oppressed people, and another Democrat, Barack Obama, maintained it. Stopping all this also means recognizing the way that violent wars of empire are built into the very fabric of what America does around the world.

It is a very positive development that this generation of students continues to take the streets demanding change. Big questions are being posed, and this outrage needs to turn into many hundreds of thousands of people awakening to political life, digging into why these horrific killings are happening and how to stop it for real. As has written, addressing the students who are demanding that school shootings end:

As you awaken to the horrors of this country and what it does, lift your sights to the emancipation of all of humanity. Otherwise none of these burning outrages will end, and in many ways you could end up being pitted against others whose lives are being wantonly destroyed by the same system that is responsible for the school shootings you’re rightly outraged about.

The real insanity is leaving in place this capitalist-imperialist system built on racism, genocide, and misogyny which doesn’t give a shit about youth in Parkland, Florida, or people anywhere else. It’s the same system that’s driving the world toward environmental calamity with global warming, and threatening it with nuclear holocaust. It’s going to take nothing less than an actual revolution to change that.

To those agonizing over the latest school shooting and those who abhor it—dig more deeply into the history of this country and the nature of this society. Rise up, resist, and revolt against all abuses and outrages going on, and against the system underlying them. Come to and get into the most radical revolutionary vision, strategy, and plan for a whole new world, without the needless carnage and insanity that is an American hallmark.


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