Western Wash. students join nationwide walkout against gun violence

Students gather for a rally against gun violence at UW's Red Square. (KOMO News photo)

Thousands of students at schools across Western Washington joined in a nationwide walkout Wednesday to protest gun violence on the one-month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

Organizers say the local schools are among about 3,000 involved in the walkout movement across the United States and even as far away as Australia.

In the Puget Sound area, dozens of schools joined in the protest. Students left class at 10 a.m. local time to demonstrate in support of the 17 victims killed by gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Among those taking part were students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Snohomish County, where a teen opened fire in the cafeteria four years ago, killing himself and four other classmates, and severely injuring a another student. Jason Thompson, acting superintendent of the district, sent a note to parents saying staff are supporting the student walkout.

Student organizers at five other schools - Roosevelt High, Nathan Hale High, University Prep, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences and The Bush School - marched to Red Square on the University of Washington campus for an 11:30 a.m. rally.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan addressed the crowd, telling them, "This is not a moment. This is a movement. ... We've been fighting for sanity for too long. We need gun safety. I've only been mayor for a little over 100 days and I've already sat with too many broken hearts in every part of this city (from gun violence). We have to change."

She pledged to march with students and fight for gun control, and she challenged the students to vote for elected officials who will support gun control.

"Vote, don't tweet," she said.

At Shorecrest High School in Shoreline, students walked out, then marched.

At Washington High School in Parkland, Wash., students gathered around the athletic field to remember their fellow students in Parkland, Fla.

Students at Ingraham High School in Seattle joined the walkout "to show our passion to end gun violence," said student representatives Anna Justen and Lena Sullivan. They planned to march to the 130th Street overpass above Interstate 5.

For some students, the walkout had a personal meaning. Tatiana Perkins lost her friend Anna Bui, who was shot and killed by an ex-classmate at a house party in Mukilteo in 2016.

"It's been almost two years and no meaningful legislation has been passed to prevent access to these assault kind of weapons that was used," she says.

Organizers of the nationwide movement are calling on Congress to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.

A number of student groups say they invited teachers and legislators to join them.

Gov. Jay Inslee spoke to students outside Ballard High School and declared Wednesday Stand Up for Safer Schools Day.

In eastern Washington, Freeman High School in Rockford observed 18 minutes of silence, with the extra minute to honor their classmate who was killed in a shooting at the school last year.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand and exercising their free speech rights, while others threatened to punish students. Some districts, including Seattle Public Schools, say they will mark any time away from classes as an unexcused absense. Others say they won't if students don't leave campus.

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