By Mark Hallum
Thousands of students at high schools across Queens joined a national 17-minute walkout protesting inaction from government officials on gun control in response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that killed 14 teenagers and three adults.
More than 1,000 students at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside stepped out of the classroom Wednesday and were joined in protest by counterparts at Bayside High School, the Al-Iman School for Islamic students in Jamaica, and the World Journalism Preparatory School in Flushing.
Mackenzie Mattone, a junior, organized the walkout at Cardozo and was joined by Borough President Melinda Katz, who praised the efforts of students like Mattone for taking action and urging fellow students to register to vote.
“As students in high school, we should not have to worry about getting shot while sitting at our desk or walking through our halls,” Mackenzie said. “I cannot imagine the moment where I witness my own best friends being killed before me and know there is nothing I can do. But 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, we can register to vote.”
Katz got behind the #enough movement by saying the country cannot wait for the next mass shooting to pass “meaningful” gun control laws.
“These are kids asking adults to do what we should be doing, which is to protect them. They need to be protected here in New York, but also in Washington where the laws have to change,” Katz said.
Ruben Frischeisen, 16, said the government has been setting its priorities wrong and disregarding the well-being of it citizens for too long.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful what the NRA and government are doing, I think change is long overdue, stemming back to the ‘90s with Columbine,” Ruben said, referring to the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine, Colo., High School, where 15 were killed, including the two gunmen. “It’s 2018 and we’re still dealing with the same issue of gun violence.
Sean Friedman, a junior at Bayside High School, said he was disappointed in the school administration’s perceived opposition to the demonstration.
According to Sean, 400 students took part in the walkout but they were rushed in and out of the building without the chance to share their thoughts publicly.
“We never got a chance to speak our mind. Kids had signs. Kids stood out in the cold. Parents stood there with signs. Everyone had something to say. We weren’t heard. It was unsuccessful. To me this is only the beginning of something bigger. I want to make a bigger demonstration,” Sean said. “I had a meeting with the principal yesterday and it seemed like they just wanted nothing to do with this. They got us in and then out. It was sad how little time we got. Not enough was said. Not enough of us were heard.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall