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US students swarm streets after Florida shooting, demand new gun laws

School children around the United States are marching to state capitals, staging walkout from schools calling for gun law reform.

world Updated: Feb 22, 2018 10:38 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Florida shooting,Gun law reform,Dinesh D’Souza
Students from Montgomery Blair High School march down Colesville Road in support of gun reform legislation February 21, 2018 in Silver Spring, Maryland. (AFP Photo)

It was an insensitive post and Dinesh D’Souza, an Indian American conservative, took it down as backlash intensified.

He had attacked student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who had watched in frustration as the Florida assembly on Tuesday voted to defeat a legislation to ban assault rifles of the kind a shooter had used to kill 14 of their schoolmates and three members of the staff whom they knew, loved and admired.

“Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” D’Souza wrote in a caption of a picture he had Tweeted.

Hours after, he took it all back and down, with an apology, in a rare expression of contrition from a man who enjoys riling opponents. To persistent attackers on social media, he begged them to go back re-read the post.

Humiliated and beaten by schoolchildren around the United States who have taken over the gun-law reforms movement, from their parents and grandparents in a fresh bid to force a change the country has long desired but has failed to push through every time, especially after every mass shooting.

School children are marching to state capitals, staging walkouts from schools — at a pre-arranged hour they just file out quietly — and passionately arguing at public events and to television cameras held just inches from their face.

They have had enough, they are saying, gun laws must change.

Sheryl Acquaroli, one of the Florida school shooting survivors who was on the picture Tweeted by D’Souza with his offensive post, told a local news publication: “I knew that it wasn’t going to go through … (But) The next death of someone with an assault rifle here in Florida is going to be on them.”

Students from Montgomery Blair High School march down Colesville Road in support of gun reform legislation February 21, 2018 in Silver Spring, Maryland. (AFP Photo)

She and a few other survivors from the school had decided to be in the assembly, in the visitors’ gallery, hoping their legislators would be overwhelmed by their presence to get around long-standing reservations and ban assault rifles. They watched, instead, the defeat of a bill they thought closed all arguments.

At 10.30am on Wednesday, hundreds of students came out of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring in Maryland, a Democratic-leaning state, and walked, escorted by police officers on motorcycles, as part of gun-control rally. Other schools in the state have similar plans staggered through the next few days.

Hundreds of miles away in Mesa in Arizona, a conservative state, dozens of students at Mesa High School walked out of class around noon calling to fix gun laws.

Up north in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a Democratic state, hundreds of students from multiple high schools walked for miles to the local government’s office in 9 degree Celsius demanding gun law reforms, according to local news media reports.

Hundreds of high school and middle school students from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia staged walkouts and gather in front of the Capitol in support of gun control. (AFP Photo)

And in Needville in Texas, deeply red state that is fiercely protective of gun rights, it took a stern warning of a three-day suspension from the local school authorities to prevent children from participating in the nationwide surge.

More marches and rallies are planned for the next coming days.

Their message will be similar to this from Michael Calderon at a rally, as captured by CBS news. Pleading to be taken seriously given some push back that he did not describe beyond a point, he said, “Trust me. I understand. I was in a closet, locked for 4 hours with people who I would consider almost family, crying and weeping on me, begging for their lives. I understand what it is like to text my parents goodbye.”

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 10:38 IST