(UVALDE, Texas) — Students of the Uvalde Independent Consolidated School District staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest gun violence, acknowledging the 19 elementary school children and two teachers who were killed after the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last May.
Uvalde students said they took inspiration from students in Nashville, Tennessee, who conducted a massive walkout on Monday related to The Covenant School shooting, which left three children and three faculty members dead. That walkout has led to days of peaceful protesting at the Tennessee state house.
Students gathered on the lawn inside the fences of the school, which were put up after the shooting and soon started making their way toward the perimeter.
Junior high students crawled underneath the locked gates to walk off school grounds and joined a march led by the high school students, who are taught on the same campus, to the Uvalde town square, the site of the memorial for the 21 victims of last year’s shooting.
“I’m very proud of my high school peers and everybody here. We saw junior high kids running down main street and that was the coolest thing ever to see the younger kids here helping us out with what we’re trying to protest,” Jackson Rhys Evans, a junior at Uvalde High School, told ABC News.
“I hope what we’re doing inspires other students to walk out of their schools to demand change as well,” Evans added.
Uvalde:365 is a continuing ABC News series focused on the Uvalde community and how it forges on in the shadow of tragedy.
Jazmin Cazares, sister to 9-year-old Jacklyn Cazares who was killed last May, said it’s bittersweet to see so many students come together to protest gun violence.
“I mean look at the crowd. How many kids have been affected by gun violence and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Cazares told ABC News.
“These are the people most affected by gun violence. They’re getting killed in their schools, they’re bleeding to death on the floor of their classrooms,” she said. “This is bittersweet because none of these kids should be here, they should be in school but instead they have to be here protesting.”
“We’re tired,” a group of students said. “If we don’t talk, who else will?”
“I’m scared of dying every day. I’m scared,” yelled one student.
“We are afraid to go out anywhere. This is everything we think about,” said another, speaking through tears.
Ana Rodriguez, whose 10-year-old daughter Maite Rodriguez was killed in the Robb shooting, was there in support of students.
“It means a lot. Look at them–look at how many kids are out here,” Rodriguez told ABC News. “They’re scared for their lives, and they care about what happened here. That means a lot to me that we have so much support from our students.”
Adam Martinez, parent of a Robb Elementary survivor and a UCISD junior high student, and founder of Uvalde-based community improvement group KARAMA, told ABC News that he has no faith in the district’s ability to make decisions in the best interest of their students.
“I’m disgusted by it,” Martinez said. “I’ve never been impressed by their decisions. They’re reactionary, not proactive. I don’t have confidence in what they do at all. They’re incompetent.”
Democratic Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, has put forth several bills this session to enact gun reform, ranging from banning “kid killer” hollow bullets that expand on contact to establishing a permanent compensation fund for victims of school shootings, with little success among the super-majority Republican legislature.
“Children shouldn’t have to walk out of class so that adults can find the political will to do something to keep them safe,” Gutierrez told ABC News in a written statement. “Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in America. Our young kids are dying in schools nationwide because politicians refuse to change gun laws.”
An email from UCISD that went out on Tuesday read, “The administration has been made aware of a social media call for a walkout on Wednesday, April 5th at noon to draw attention to gun control safety. We intend to be sensitive to this issue and allow students to participate in a controlled walkout… Safety continues to be our top priority, and ensuring our students’ safety outside of our secured fenced area is challenging.”
The district did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.
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