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Bay Area Students Add Their Voice To National Debate On Gun Control

WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) -- Thousands of Bay Area students walked out of their classrooms Wednesday as part of a national protest for stronger gun control laws in the wake of a high school shooting in Florida which claimed 17 lives.

Hundreds of students poured out of Oakland Technical High School Wednesday morning.

The demonstration was one of many held across Oakland and the Bay Area. Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said that it appeared that nearly all of the school's more than 2,000 students were participating in the rally.

Actions were planned at most of Oakland's middle and high schools and at some elementary schools Wednesday.

Since the Parkland shooting, there have been some suggestions on how to prevent mass shootings at schools and some new legislation has passed. One controversial suggestion floated by President Donald Trump involved arming teachers in classrooms, a suggestion that Oakland's students chided.

"Giving our teachers weapons will not diffuse the problem, it will only make it worse," one speaker at Wednesday's rally said.

The students said they were standing in solidarity with victims of gun violence nationwide, but also particularly called attention to the protracted issue of gun violence in Oakland, which affects many Oakland youth. When the gathered crowd was asked if they'd known someone killed by gun violence, nearly every student raised their hand.

The students called for silence as speakers announced the names of gun violence victims for 17 minutes, including many from Oakland. The list included Davon Ellis, a 14-year-old student at Oakland Tech who was shot and killed in 2015, whose name drew loud applause. They ended the list by chanting, "Enough is enough."

They also listed children who had been killed by guns in Oakland, like 5-year-old Gabriel Martinez Jr., who was killed in a drive-by shooting near his family's taco truck in 2012, or Hiram Lawrence Jr., who was 1 year old when he was shot in West Oakland in 2011.

The list of school shootings included the 2012 shooting at Oikos University in Oakland, when a former student killed seven people and injured three others.

After each victim, the speakers said, "may he rest in peace" or "may she rest in peace," and remained silent for 30 seconds.

At Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, the students formed a circle around 17 of their classmates who staged staged a die-in to honor those who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Even a rainshower didn't prevent hundreds of students from streaming out the doors of Oakland Tech High School at 10 a.m. to join in the wave of protests.

"We are future voters, a lot of us will be able to vote in the next general election," said student organizer Caroline Pers. "We have a voice. We have a voice that matters. We need to get involved if they (lawmakers) are not going to represent our views."

At Berkeley High School, hundreds of students sat in the rain to listen to student speakers demand tougher gun laws.

In San Jose, Leonardo Aguilar was the only one to walk out of his second grade classroom so he could joined the high school student protest at Lincoln High. he carried a handmade sign proclaiming -- "Guns Are Cruel Not Cool."

Students at Notre Dame High in Belmont lined several blocks carrying signs and waving at passing cars. One student's sign read -- "I Should Be Lucky To Go TO School ... Not Lucky That I Came Home Alive."

The students at the school walked out of their classrooms -- past 17 empty desks honoring the parkland victims -- eventually making their way outside to Belmont's Ralston Avenue.

"I hope lawmakers realize that we aren't going to take this anymore and we will stand up," said Notre Dame High student Andrea Rios. "Even a private school is standing up against this!"


There were points when the protest got a little rowdy as the young women held their signs and chanted, at times cheering in response to honks of support from passing drivers.

But for 17 minutes, it was perfectly quiet as the student listed the names of the 17 victims, ringing a bell each time a name was read.

"When I was ringing the bell I felt very emotional," said Rios. "And hearing the names being read, it put a reality to this protest that we were doing. So many kids have died, and that's why it's so important that we're doing this."

The scene was very similar at Henry Gunn High and Palo Alto High where hundreds of students marched, chanted and listen to speakers demanding that their voices be heard.

Across the nation, the scenes were repeated thousands of times over.

Braving snow in New England and threats of school discipline in places like Georgia and Ohio, they carried signs, chanted slogans against the National Rifle Association and bowed their heads in memory of the 17 dead in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"We're sick of it," said Maxwell Nardi, a senior at Douglas S. Freeman High School in Henrico, Virginia, just outside Richmond. "We're going to keep fighting, and we're not going to stop until Congress finally makes resolute changes."

Students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the dead in Florida. At some schools, students didn't go outside but lined the hallways, gathered in gyms and auditoriums or wore orange, the color used by the movement against gun violence, or maroon, the school color at Stoneman Douglas.

Over and over, students declared that enough is enough, that too many young people have died, and that they are tired of going to school afraid of getting shot.

"I don't want my mother or my father having to worry about me going to school getting an education and then my life is gone," said Leticia Carroll, a 15-year-old freshman who helped organize a walkout of more than 100 students at Groves High School in Beverly Hills, Michigan, outside Detroit.

She added: "We need answers. We need something done."

Alexia Medero, a 17-year-old at Parkland High School outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, said the issue has too easily fallen by the wayside after past tragedies.

"Families are being torn apart, futures are being stolen, lives are being lost. But we must ensure they are not forgotten," she said.


© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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