Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen Students Join National Protests for Gun Control

“It’s important because if we don’t try to make a change then we’re not going to see anything happen,” a 16-year-old junior said about the walkout. | Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen students walked out of school on the morning of Wednesday, March 14, as part of a nationwide movement pushing for stricter gun control laws in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Florida.

At about 10 a.m., students from schools that are housed at the Bayard Rustin Educational Campus (351 W. 18th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) exited their classrooms to protest gun violence: 17 people died on Feb. 14 after a 19-year-old former student armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle went on a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“They didn’t deserve to die,” Robert Martinez, 17, said as he and his fellow students poured out of building.

The walkout was for 17 minutes — one minute to honor each of the lives lost that day. Martinez, a senior, said it was important to pay respect.

Fabian Aguilar, 17, left, and Robert Martinez, 17, participated in a walkout honoring those students who died last month in a school shooting in Florida. | Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

Fabian Aguilar, 17, said it is very easy to “brush off” the ideas of the young — but those are the people who are directly affected by school shootings, and talked about how Parkland students have become vocal advocates.

“Those students are doing a lot to have their voices heard,” Aguilar, a senior, said.

Aguilar said he thought they were going to go a nearby Wells Fargo as part of the protest — the bank has ties to the National Rifle Association — but the students went around the block, and then headed back to class.

He said he felt “lucky” to live in New York state, where it is more difficult to obtain weapons than other parts of the country.

St. Peter’s Rev. Deacon Denise LaVetty outside of the high schools on W. 18th St. in Chelsea supporting students during the National School Walkout for common sense gun laws. | Photo courtesy of St. Peter’s Chelsea

Rev. Deacon Denise LaVetty of St. Peter’s Chelsea passed out cards to the students with the hashtags #NationalSchoolWalkout #ENOUGH #NeverAgain, and a scripture verse from 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

“I don’t call what happened today a protest, I call it a statement of a position,” she said later by phone. “We need to tighten up our controls on guns.”

That includes banning assault weapons, closing loopholes in background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase, and prohibiting high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, LaVetty noted.

She pointed to St. Peter’s longtime engagement and support of the Chelsea community and its causes, and said that the walkout was special because it involved the neighborhood’s youth.

Students in Chelsea checked out a card from St. Peter’s in support of Wednesday’s walkout. | Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

In Hell’s Kitchen, both younger students from PS51 and high school students from The Beacon School gathered together on the street where their schools are located (W. 44th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), which the NYPD had closed off for the walkout. Students held signs that stated “Enough is Enough,” “You Work for Us,” and “Protect Kids — Not Guns.”

Additional reporting by Christian Miles

Students from PS51 filled W. 44 St. (btw. 10th & 11th Aves.) on Wed. morning, joined by others from The Beacon School (located on the same block).| Photo by Christian Miles

Beacon School students with one word that says it all. | Photo by Christian Miles


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