A generation shaped by gun violence plans to make itself heard today

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/14/2018, 3:16 p.m.
Jackson Mittleman opened a news alert on his phone on Valentine's Day, and saw a tragically familiar image: Students with ...
Jackson Mittleman was an 11-year-old sixth-grader when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary, two miles from his school -- a tragedy that changed the course of his life.

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) -- Jackson Mittleman opened a news alert on his phone on Valentine's Day, and saw a tragically familiar image: Students with their hands raised, fleeing a shooting.

It brought him back to December 14, 2012, when similar images from his hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, were broadcast around the country. On that day, his community joined what he calls a family "no one wants to be a part of."

Now the people of Parkland, Florida were joining it, too. His heart ached for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as he thought about what they were going through, and what lay ahead. "Is it ever going to stop?" he asked himself.

Mittleman was an 11-year-old sixth-grader when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary, two miles from his school -- a tragedy that changed the course of his life. Now 16, he's a gun control advocate who's joining the national school walkout on Wednesday that's part memorial and part protest.

"A message we're trying to send to Parkland is we stand behind them," said Jackson, co-chair of the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance, who is organizing the walkout at Newtown High School. "We are motivated and we are fired up to push as hard as they push and fight as long as they fight."

A national day of protest

Last month, organizers from the Women's March youth branch started calling for students across the country to walk out of class for 17 minutes -- one for each victim who died in the Parkland shooting -- on March 14, to pressure lawmakers to act on gun control.

Now, in addition to walkouts, students across the country are planning rallies, marches and sit-ins -- some in open defiance of their school districts.

Participants say they want to make sure that calls for change in the wake of Parkland take into account the broader context of gun violence in the United States. For D'Angelo McDade, a senior at North Lawndale College Prep High School in Chicago, gun violence is personal -- but not because of a shooting at school.

He was shot in the thigh as he sat on his front porch in the summer of 2017, leaving bullet fragments in his body, he said. As soon as he was released from the hospital, he started talking to his principal about ways to fight gun violence. On Wednesday, he plans to lead more than half of the school's 600 students on a walkout to converge with teens from other schools.

"Many of our community members and young adults have established a sense of hopelessness and normalized the suffering that comes with gun violence," he said. "But they're ready to see a change."

Security or criminalization?

In response to the Parkland shooting, the White House has proposed that some school personnel be provided with "rigorous" firearms training.

Student organizers behind the day of action said in a conference call Monday that they feared introducing more guns or police into schools could turn them into prisons, with dangerous consequences for students of color.