CANARSIE, Brooklyn (PIX11) — On Wednesday, students from elementary to high school, on campuses across the country and the tri-state region, walked out of class to protest gun violence in schools.
They said they’re trying to save their own lives and those of other young people and need to raise their voices to spur legislative action. Carrying signs and banners condemning gun violence, the entire third and fourth grades of the Excel Lower Charter School in Brooklyn left their classes at noon.
They chanted, “We won’t be silenced; stop gun violence!”
They filed out of the front entrance and walked down and around the block.
The students had asked their teachers and administrators to help them participate in a public demonstration against gun violence. Their request came after a deadly shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, according to teacher Kafilat Hassan, who helped organize Wednesday’s demonstration.
“They wanted to be active in their community,” Hassan said. “They wanted to be active in the lives of children.”
Six people — three children and three adults — were killed in the Covenant School shooting. The children who died were 9, the same age as many students who protested at the Canarsie event.
It was part of a national walkout against gun violence organized by Students Demand Action, a youth group in the anti-gun violence organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
Excel Lower Charter students held a rally after their march. They expressed concerns that gun violence could hit close to home.
They mentioned a shooting two months ago in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where two students and a staff member at Williamsburg Charter High School were injured.
According to recent testimony from NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey, gun violence is part of a larger trend of young people having and using guns.
He said that between 2017 and 2022, the number of shooting victims under 18 has more than doubled, from 75 to 153. According to NYPD statistics that Maddrey cited, the number of juvenile shooting arrests has increased nearly three-fold, from 48 to 123. Additionally, arrests of people under 18 who have guns on them have risen from 275 to 448.
It’s why students citywide were taking action on Wednesday. A group of young people from schools in some Lower Manhattan neighborhoods walked out at noon without official school permission.
Sofia Dib-Gomez, group leader for Clinton Students Demand Action, was among the young people who’d left. She said that even though she and about a dozen students at her school walked out without a formal sanction, she still received positive reactions from school leaders.
“It was just amazing feeling support,” Dib-Gomez said in an interview.
She added that while she and other students who met up in Union Square held a demonstration there, a few passersby expressed concern about limiting gun rights.
Dib-Gomez said that she and her fellow students politely responded that they’re for gun safety, including reductions in sales of assault rifles.
“We’re just focusing on restrictions and a screening process that focuses on who is getting those rifles,” Dib-Gomez said.
The message overall, the high schooler said, was the same one that elementary students at the charter school in Canarsie were emphasizing: they’re trying to save lives.
“It’s not fair that these people around [the] world get someone taken from them they love so much,” said fourth-grader Jahir Cole at the Excel Charter School demonstration. “And they have to sit at home in grief.”