Southwest Brooklyn students take to streets to protest against gun violence
National School Walkout draws support here
Hundreds of students poured out of the main entrance of New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst shortly before 10 a.m. on Wednesday and started walking around the block in quiet protest against gun violence in America.
New Utrecht High School, at 1601 80th St., was one of dozens of schools in Southwest Brooklyn taking part in National Walkout Day, the protest organized by young people to call on Congress to pass new laws to curb gun violence in the wake of the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Wednesday marked exactly one month since the mass shooting at the Florida school in which 17 people were killed.
“We’re doing this because of what happened in Florida,” Jeremiah Garcia, a New Utrecht junior, told the Brooklyn Eagle as he and his fellow students walked at a brisk pace up 80th Street.
The students planned to stay outside for 17 minutes — one minute each in memory of the Parkland victims.
Wave after wave of teenagers exited the school and made their way along 80th Street in two separate groups, with some students walking toward 16th Avenue while other walked in the opposite direction toward 17th Avenue.
A few students held protest signs, but most of the teens carried nothing and simply walked in silence, perhaps out of a belief that their sheer numbers would send a message to lawmakers.
Gianna Bader, a junior, said the Parkland massacre made her sit up and take notice. “What happened was so horrible. I feel terrible for the kids in Florida,” she told the Eagle.
While the New Utrecht students felt sympathy for their peers in Parkland, they said they did not think they would ever see gun violence in their classrooms.
Garcia said that he and his friends generally felt safe inside their school, but he added that there are steps New York City authorities could take to increase safety. “They could use metal detectors,” he said.
Over at Fort Hamilton High School at 8301 Shore Road in Bay Ridge, students who took part in the National Walkout found support from community activists.
The activists gathered outside the Narrows Avenue entrance of the school to hold a Silent Vigil and to greet the students as they conducted the walkout.
“In the aftermath of yet another senseless tragedy, our youth are now taking the lead in combating gun violence, and we want to stand with them,” Bay Ridge resident Mark Hoglund said in a statement.
“The plan for a Silent Vigil outside Fort Hamilton High School came together spontaneously out of a group of Bay Ridge residents who attended the Good Will Gathering at Bay Ridge United Methodist Church on Sunday, March 4,” said the Rev. Robert Emerick, the pastor of the church.
Student protesters are finding found support from other entities.
The Brooklyn Public Library planned to install 17 symbolically empty school desks in the lobby of its Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza to support the student walkout.
Borough President Eric Adams announced that he would sponsor an after-school rally at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Park Slope on Wednesday.
“We are in a unique period in our nation’s history. The greatest experience in growth academically and personally is getting involved in a moment of change. Now is that moment,” Adams said in a statement.
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