Portland-area students walk out of class to protest gun violence

Portland students hold hands during a school walkout on March 14, 2018. Photo courtesy @meatballssmama via Instagram

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Public Schools students took a stand with students across the country Wednesday to protest gun violence and honor the 17 victims killed in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.

Hundreds of local students across Portland, Beaverton, Vancouver, Salem and other area schools walked out of class at 10 a.m. Some held moments of silence, while others featured speakers on gun violence.

Walkouts encompassed students from elementary school-aged through college.

PHOTOS: Students walkout across Portland metro

Young children from Glencoe Elementary School in Southeast Portland walked out of class and formed a peace sign in their courtyard.

A fifth-grade student from the Creative Science School in Portland told KATU News he and his classmates were protesting because he wants to be safe at school.

"We're trying to stand up to gun violence because of the shooting in Florida and we're trying to make a difference," Westyn Cleaver said, with his mom at his side.

"I'm feeling a little emotional, that

in the fifth grade they're needing to address these issues, but I feel very proud of them. They all seem to be very passionate about creating safe schools and putting some regulation on gun use in this country," Westyn's mom said.

At South Salem High School, student organizers planned a walkout, but also a sit-in inside the school for students who weren't comfortable leaving campus or weren't allowed to do so by their parents.

"The walk-in was an opportunity for students who didn't feel comfortable leaving school. It's giving them the opportunity to also demonstrate where they stand with this issue," protest organizer McKenzie said.

Students from a variety of districts have the same reasoning for why they’re doing this.

“I think we wanted to do the same and we were really tired of everyone calling for action and no one really doing anything,” said Abby Winkler, a student.

“It’s a really unifying thing, just knowing that your peers, the people you grew up with, are standing with you,” said Lucy Glassberg, another student.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown attended the walkout at Roosevelt High School in North Portland.

"I'm so proud of the students for speaking out. They know what's right. At a time when our students are acting like leaders, it's very clear that Congress is acting like children unfortunately," Gov. Brown said.

She isn't the only politician getting involved, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler made an appearance at Lincoln High School.

So what's the impact of all these protests and walkouts? The Oregon Historical Society has a new civil rights exhibit that was also started by young people.

"In the civil rights movement, those children were fighting for their lives, just like we're seeing children do today," Eliza Canty-Jones with the historical society said. "There's a feeling of devastation that the situation is so bad that children feel responsible for fixing it."

READ MORE | Mayor Ted Wheeler will recess city council meeting for 17 minutes to honor Florida victims

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