SOMERVILLE — Hundreds of Somerville High School students walked out of their classes Wednesday morning to demand an end to gun-related violence in the wake of the attack at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.
The students chose to walk out at 8:17 a.m., a time that reflects the number of students and staffers who were killed in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
After exiting the building, the students sat quietly on the sidewalk outside of Somerville High School and held a 17-minute silent protest. The mood was solemn. The expressions on their faces were somber. Several students carried handmade signs, some of which read: “#Never Again,” “We Call BS,” and “Protect Children Not Guns.”
Chet Patton-Hock, 16, an 11th-grader, was holding a sign that read: “America Demands Gun Reform.” He said his parents were supportive of his decision to take part in Wednesday’s demonstration.
“I chose to walk out today because America has issues that need to be addressed. . . . Things need to be changed,” Patton-Hock said. “Until that change happens, we’re just gonna walk out. It’s got to be done somehow. It always starts with protests.”
After the silent protest, scores of students marched down Highland Avenue to Trum Field.
Mary Duffy, 14, a ninth-grader, said she was participating as a show of support for the victims of the Florida shooting and other school-related gun violence.
“This is to prove that everyone cares and they need to make a change now before anything bad happens again and anyone can get affected by it,’’ she said as she marched with her fellow students.
Lily Lombardo, 14, said the Florida shooting shows that lawmakers have to act and to take steps that protect children first.
“Congressmen have a lot of power, but maybe the kids should have a say in it. It’s our safety, too. It’s not everyone’s safety; it’s our safety,’’ she said. “I was personally heartbroken over all the [school-related] shootings. . . . It’s heartbreaking. And I think a time to step up for the kids is now.”
Another Somerville ninth-grader, Heather Senn, 14, said she feared that more young people would die if something is not done.
“These shootings are just becoming more and more often, and we need to put a stop to this,” she said. “I should feel safe when I go to school to get my education. . . . I should be able to feel safe.”
Many of the students who gathered at Trum Field addressed letters to members of Congress, asking them to support an assault weapons ban and “extreme risk protective order” legislation that would allow law enforcement officials to temporarily take away guns from people who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
In Florida, students returned Wednesday to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since a former student opened fire there with a semiautomatic rifle, killing 17 staffers and students. The 19-year-old alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was captured and faces 17 counts of murder.
The deadly mass shooting has prompted students at other schools to speak out and take action.
A sit-in was held at Andover High School on Feb. 16, and many local students are expected to attend the “March For Our Lives” demonstration on Boston Common on March 24.Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.