Thousands of students walked out of school Wednesday — and headed straight for political rallies starring top Democrats.
The National School Walkout drew charges of partisanship and “political indoctrination” after students in a number of major cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., wound up skipping class to attend gun control events headlined by Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer took the opportunity to tout his gun control credentials during a speech to thousands of students who gathered Wednesday morning outside the Capitol, then led the crowd in chanting, “We will win!”
“Enough is enough. I’ve been through these wars,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “I am the author of the Brady law and the assault-weapons ban. The NRA has made me public enemy number one, and I’m proud of it.”
Organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, the massive walkout saw thousands of students across the nation leave class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one minute for each of those killed one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
For some students, however, that was just the beginning of a full day of activism.
Many schools arranged for participants to remain on school property for the walkout, filing them into gyms and onto playing fields, but plenty of teens left campus to march through the streets and gather for rallies, sometimes miles away, at parks and state capitols.
Students at Granada Hills High School in California spelled out “Enough” on the football field, while teens elsewhere waved signs and chanted gun-control slogans like, “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?”
“I’m proud to be a New Yorker, where our state’s gun laws are some of the strictest in the nation,” senior Anastasia Beirne-Meyer said at a rally outside Edward R. Murrow High School.
She was flanked by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “You are making so clear to this whole country that you are sick of the violence, you’re sick of madness, you’re sick of the slaughter, and you won’t stand for it,” he said. “And we need your leadership.”
In Chicago, Chris Cleveland was mainly sick of the politics. The Chicago Republican Party chairman announced Wednesday that the party planned to sue the school system for violating prohibitions on political activity, accusing teachers of engaging in “political indoctrination” by facilitating the protests.
“The problem is we’ve got teachers who are taking kids out for a political rally on public property and public time,” Mr. Cleveland told “The Morning Answer” on AM 650 in Chicago. “This is political indoctrination. It’s totally inappropriate.
Mr. Cleveland said staff at the school attended by his third-grader in the Chicago Public Schools had facilitated the walkout.
“I have a child in a CPS school, and in this one they were planning to take grades 5-8 out, herd them out for this demonstration, they encouraged them to make posters about gun control to express their opinions,” he said. “I don’t think they’re telling these kids to be against gun control here. Clearly they’re pushing a political view upon them.”
Chicago teens were accompanied during the walkout by a rash of Democratic politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Attorney General Pat Quinn and former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan, ABC7 Chicago reported.
In Nashville, #MeToo activist Tarana Burke led hundreds of students from one high school to the Tennessee state capitol, where they were greeted by Democratic state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, a candidate for governor, the Tennessean reported.
In Denver, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed a large crowd of students who marched to the state capitol.
“I think what you’re seeing all across the country today is kids rising up and saying ‘Enough is enough,’” Mr. Hickenlooper said on CBS4. “We don’t want to be scared to go to school. We don’t want to be the victims of what are in essence terrorist attacks against ourselves.’”
In Washington, D.C., lawmakers speaking at the event included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent who was greeted like a rock star with screams and cheers of “Bernie!”
“What you are doing is of national significance. You’re leading this country in the right direction,” Mr. Sanders said.
The conservative website Twitchy cracked: “Need more proof that #NationalWalkoutDay is all about Dems? Look no further than this,” posting videos of Democrats speaking at the rallies.
Students at more than 2,800 schools had signed up to join the walkout, according to the Women’s March, which had estimated that 185,000 students would participate.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.