Thousands of students across the country participated in another school walkout today — the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
They came from Albany High, Schenectady High, Shenendehowa, Schalmont, Holy Names, Albany Academies, Bethlehem High, Columbia High, Emma Willard, Guilderland High, Shaker, and more. Their voices resonated across West Capitol Park in protest against gun violence.
"The youth of this country are not the future. We are the present...This is a message to you, elected officials. It is time for our elected representatives in this country to serve all people, not just the ones who are putting extra money in their pockets.... Just like I learned that people are using loopholes, saying that guns are there to protect people. Well why are innocent people dying? Why?... We rise against violence in schools, in churches, in concerts, in clubs and movie theatres and in the streets of our nation."
Elected officials on hand showing solidarity with the students included Democratic Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. "I know that there is more that we need to do. And your power and your voices matter. Your power and your voices are making a difference. My family was impacted by gun violence one year and 12 days ago when my son's biological brother was gunned down not more than a mile from here in the middle of the afternoon on a beautiful sunny day. This has to stop. We can do better. Our children deserve to be safe. Our communities deserve to be safe."
Protestors were joined by two students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Adam Alhanti and John Barnitt.
Alhanti urged students to exercise their power at the ballot box. "I come here to ask of you guys, that if you could take the time to walk out of your school, march around your capitol and advocate for change, then would you to take the time to use your voice and vote for the ones who will get us what we want? You all pick up your phone and write tweets, but will you pick up a pen and check a ballot? There isn't anything we can do unless we register, educate and vote."
Barnitt paid tribute to shooting victims at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook... "We've had 19 years of thoughts and prayers. It's time for a policy change. Today we stand in unity, raising our voices in honor for those who cannot. We demand a change and we demand a stop to this vicious cycle. Not one more. Any school shooting is too many. Any gun violence cannot happen again. We need to ensure the safety of our nation."
Students say they want Congress to listen to their generation’s call for action. And many times throughout the Albany rally, they reminded elected officials that many of them will be eligible to vote in 2020 — if not sooner.