1,200 Grant Park students walk out to honour Parkland school shooting victims
More than 3,000 walkouts worldwide lasted 17 minutes after 17 shot dead at Florida school
Hundreds of students at a Winnipeg high school got up and walked out of class Wednesday morning in response to a U.S. school shooting last month, and to show young people can make change.
"I really think it's important for youth to know that we have a voice, and they shouldn't resist it, they should use it," said Sam Kimelman, a 16-year-old Grade 10 student at Grant Park High School and a member of a human rights student group that organizes an annual conference.
Kimelman's group organized the walkout, which started at 10 a.m. and lasted 17 minutes — one minute for each of the 17 victims killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
"Luckily in Canada we don't have to worry as much about gun control, gun laws and gun safety," said Kimelman.
"Although we did want to promote the message of student activism because those recent events have highlighted just how unfairly student activists are dismissed for being too uneducated or too young."
The event happened in conjunction with mass walkouts across the U.S. Wednesday morning, organized at more than 3,000 schools worldwide for 10 a.m. in each time zone.
Staff at the school supported them when they presented the idea, Kimelman said, and they also participated in the event with the support of the school division's superintendent.
"We really wanted to promote the message of staff and students walking out together to show people at this school that if you want to make a change, you are fully supported," he said.
Out of the 1,300 students at the school, between 50 and 70 chose not to participate, Kimelman said.
Students encouraged to speak up
After students walked out, the names of the 17 students and staff who died in the Parkland shooting were read aloud, followed by a moment of silence. Organizers then addressed the crowd, telling other youth that their voices matter.
"It just gives me a lot of hope, because within the next few years we are the adults, we are the voters," Kimelman said.
"We are going to be making change, and I think to see that we're already interested in making change and to see that we're not afraid to speak up for what we believe in is really just very inspiring. It gives me a lot of hope."
Katie Delay, 16, also addressed the students at the walkout. She said she was inspired to see so much support for the cause, and the crowd was very receptive to their message.
"It was really emotional to see the Grade 7 and 8 students holding signs in support of student activism," Delay said.
"I think towards the end, we were all kind of giddy with excitement to see how many people came out to support our cause," she said.
Kimelman said his group is also busy organizing the Rights Here, Rights Now human rights conference scheduled for April 17. The event will focus on reconciliation and issues such as women's rights, mental health awareness and refugee rights.
"We mainly just wanted to convey the message that student activism is important and students can make a change to both staff and students at this school and all over the world."
With files from Holly Caruk