Photo by Jon Cronin
BY JON CRONIN
Thousands of Queens students flooded the borough’s streets on Wednesday to show solidarity with a national wave of youths who are leading the charge on stricter gun control.
In Southeast Queens, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) joined Principal Rory Parnell and the students of August Martin High School as they walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence and urged lawmakers to take action following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“I encourage all students to raise their voices in civil protest, especially those who made the choice to walk out today,” Adams said during Wednesday’s walkout. “Lawmakers must take action to prevent these senseless acts in our schools. Students and staff should not have to worry about gun violence in classrooms.”
August Martin students walked out of their school at 10 a.m. and marched by Baisley Pond Park silently for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 victims who died in Parkland.
Bayside’s Benjamin Cardozo High School students were joined by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for their walkout.
Cardozo 11th grader Mackenzie Mattone, 16, organized the event at the school, which also lasted 17 minutes.
“We have four thousand students at this school. We’re not forcing anybody to walk out, but I do have high hopes that a lot of people will show up,” said Mattone before the walkout began at 10.a.m.
Katz told the crowd, “You have an amazing advocate in Mackenzie Mattone.”
“Look around you. This is happening all across America,” Katz said. “Kids are telling the adults in Washington to get it together. Pass gun control.”
Mattone had distributed a sheet stating the goals of the walkout. It read, “This is a meaningful protest, do not join the movement just to miss a period of class.”
The students’ goals are to have stronger background checks, raising the minimum age on rifle purchases to 21 and banning high capacity magazines and bump stocks. She asked 17-year-old students to register to vote and exercise their right by voting for elected officials who would support stronger gun control. On the front steps of Cardozo, Mattone spoke into a megaphone to thousands of students who were gathered on the street.
“I cannot imagine the moment where I witness my own best friend being killed before me and knowing that there is nothing I can do,” she said. “Well, what if there is something we can all do? We can make our voices heard. We can make a difference. We can force legislators to listen to the demands of students who want to live another day.”