Students at Rufus King International High School in Milwaukee joined in solidarity Wednesday with students across the country, as part of a national walkout. The peaceful protest marked one month since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead.
The MPS students participated in memory of the victims, and also to discuss gun violence and gun control - students say enough is enough.
Hundreds of Rufus King High School students gathered on the school’s track field to protest gun violence. They walked the field in silence for 17 minutes while the names of each of the 17 Parkland school shooting victims' names was read aloud.
Some of the high schoolers carried signs that read: “End Gun Violence,” “The NRA is the True Terrorist Organization,” and “#NeverAgain.”
Ruth Fetaw, the senior class president, said the push for change can’t end after the walkout; it has to continue going forward.
“We have to continue this progression of this movement and hope that people will continue to stand with us and know that gun control is necessary," she said. "We need to have guns regulated in order for students to feel safe and accepted within their school."
The crowd huddled at the middle of the athletic field to hear more from students and student leaders.
Several shared their personal stories of how they’ve lost family members to gun violence in Milwaukee – one could barely get through her comments as she fought to hold back tears. A junior, Nia Mooney, provided the group with a spoken word piece.
Student leaders, like senior Kiva Carman-Frank, say in part, the walkout was an opportunity to respond to adults who say they’re too young to know what’s going on to make a difference.
“Our government is shifting, our people are shifting, our students are changing their minds and instead of sitting down, they’re standing up and they’re saying that we can’t stand for this any longer. That this can’t happen in our schools, in our communities. We can’t go to school, where we come to feel safe and to get an education, and feel like we are going to die in the hallways,” Carman-Frank said.
Students said they're asking that lawmakers make it harder for people under the age of 21 to be able to buy guns – and they want those over the age of 21 to go through an extensive background check.
Noah Cotton, a sophomore, said he thinks gun laws need to be changed. “It’s crazy to me how we have money for guns in this country, but we don’t have money for education. That more people have guns than more people who are graduating high school.”
The Rufus King students were joined by faculty, as well as community members and alumni – and MPS Superintendent, Dr. Darienne Driver.
“Our young people are bright and intelligent. They have the right to exercise free speech," Driver said. "They have the right to stand up for what they want to see in their schools. And so there’s always going to be critics, I just have to stress again, life is not a partisan issue, that it’s really important that people start to understand that this is an issue that affects us all.”
Students say their next move is to participate in the March For Our Lives protest in Milwaukee later this month. It's another national day of action to push for stricter gun laws.