Students locally, nationally take part in walkout protests

Credit: WAVY/Laura Caso

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Students locally and nationally walked out of class Wednesday in a show of support for tighter gun laws.

The protests were planned in honor of the students killed in a shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Gallery: Local school walkout protests

Thousands of schools around the country planned protests — including 15 in Hampton Roads. For 17 minutes — students honored the 17 lives lost in the shooting.

Some students have said they hope that the short time out of class will make a difference and place pressure on lawmakers at every level to do something about gun laws.

The movement — called #Enough — is calling for a ban on assault-style weapons and the expansion of background checks.

Several of the walkouts took place in Virginia Beach, including at First Colonial High School.

“There are people who want to make a difference and who want to have their voices heard,” said First Colonial sophomore Darcy Liebell.

On Wednesday, students from all over the country did just that. They left the classroom to send a message of change.

“I think I want young people to be taken seriously,” added First Colonial sophomore Charlotte Horne. “Even though we are young and we can’t make policy, and we can’t really influence government as much as adults, I think they should hear our voices.”

“The kids that lost their lives are not a joke,” said First Colonial junior Ria Purcell. “We should be aware of what is going on in our world today and we should take that seriously.”

“We all know they were people too,” added First Colonial senior Samuel Williams. “This could be anyone of us. They deserve for their voices to be heard. They can’t speak for themselves, so we have to speak for them.”

There were also protests at Landstown, Ocean Lakes, Green Run and Salem high schools. Students are not only remembering the victims, there’s another message.

“We demand stronger gun controls,” said First Colonial senior David Abrigo. “We demand that we feel safe in our schools, because as of right now we don’t.”

Students have also said they hope the movement sparks change on a local level with everyday security.

Local school districts prepared for the protests for more than a week. Administrators made it clear they are neither for, nor against students protesting, and would not stop the students’ First Amendment rights.

Related: Local school districts aware of planned walkouts

Police were on-hand to keep students safe and make sure no one from the public went onto school grounds to join the protests.

Another walk out is scheduled for April 20.