At precisely 10 a.m. on Friday, Culver City Middle School students exited the school building and, with signs held aloft, marched to Veterans Memorial Park, and then on to City Hall.
With chants like “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today” and “Enough is enough” ringing out throughout the demonstration, the students were encouraged by the many cars sounding their horns as they passed, and well-wishing onlookers.
The students, ages 11 to 14, joined others in L.A. and all over the country in the National Walkout for Gun Violence Prevention on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine high school mass shooting, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed.
“This walkout is in honor of ALL people who have experienced acts of gun violence, including systemic forms of gun violence that disproportionately impact teens in black and brown communities,” the school's walkout coordinator, Kira Grimes, said in a written statement. “It is important that when we refer to gun violence, we do not overlook the impact of police brutality and militarized policing, or see police in schools as a solution.”
The students told L.A. Weekly that they had been warned by the school they would be marked absent for not attending class. That was confirmed by assistant district superintendent Robert Quinn, who said he was there to ensure their safety, discreetly following the march without communicating with the students.
Jonah Hiraoka, 14, said he was taking part in the walkout to point out government shortcomings. He said the country needs comprehensive gun legislation.
“I'm fine with four hours of Saturday school next Saturday,” he said, referring to the detention faced by the students taking part in the walkout. “We'll all be there. They'll want us to write an essay about why what we did was wrong, but we'll all write about what we did being right.”
Holding a sign that read, “Protect kids, not guns,” Benjamin Corburn, 11, said he was protesting on behalf of all the kids who have been killed with guns.
“The age that kids can get guns should be raised,” Corburn said. “Maybe bags should be checked before school, too.”
Kennedy Crayton, 13, said that enough is quite simply enough.
“I don't know if I'll be next,” she said. “So I don't mind being marked absent. That doesn't bother me if I can save some lives.”
When the protest reached City Hall, the students chanted “Vote them out” in front of the main entrance.
As the walkout progressed there was some confusion, with students believing they were not permitted to re-enter the school when the protest concluded. Quinn assured them that wasn't the case.
With more than 2,000 walkouts planned nationally, thousands of students in the L.A. area took part, including those from South Gate High School and LAUSD.