Seventeen high school students staged a “lie-in” at the White House on Monday to protest the government’s lack of action on gun control and the lives tragically lost as a result.
The students, symbolically representing the number of children and adults killed in the most recent shooting rampage — Wednesday’s Parkland, Fla., school slaughter — lay silently on their backs for three minutes.
They were then joined by about 100 other students, young children and adults.
Other demonstrators stood, holding American flags and signs asking, “Am I next?” One sign inquired, “Is Congress or the NRA making our laws?” After about 15 minutes, the group stood and embraced each other.
President Trump did not come outside to view the protest. He was about 1,000 miles away at his Mar-a-Lago resort and golf club in Palm Beach, Fla.
Gigi Aiken, a lie-in participant, said the group plans to continue to speak out.
“This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue,” said Aiken, a 17-year-old junior at a Washington area high school. “Both parties have to negotiate to protect the kids and the children in school. We want no more mass shootings and we can’t wait any longer.”
Later, another group of student protesters turned to face the Trump White House and chanted, “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today!”
They also chanted, “We call bulls–t! We call bulls–t,” an echo of the rallying cry of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, who delivered a searing indictment of pro-NRA politicians at a Saturday rally.
“Why should we be allowed to live in fear, knowing that one day it could be any of us?” an irate teen screamed at the White House on Monday.
Anger rippled almost palpably through the crowd.
“No more dead kids!” and “Congress is complicit! Congress is complicit!” were two more powerful chants.
A 10-year-old boy named Leo said, “We’re protesting against people who are shooting at schools and killing innocent kids with guns that should be illegal.”
“We’re tired of hearing thoughts and prayers from Congress,” his mom said. “We want action from Congress.
A 16-year-old girl from River Bend High School in Virginia said, “The shooting offended me because it just keeps happening, and Donald Trump and Congress aren’t doing anything about it.”
After the lie-in, a man wearing a shirt that read “Patriot Pickett” drew protesters’ ire with a sign calling for arming teachers and staff.
Robert O’Brien, 17, a student at the Potomac School in McLean, Va., urged the media not to give him any attention.
“You need to focus on the young people and not this man,” he told reporters. “Focus on the young children who are the ones who this actually impacts. This man is a distraction.”
Another young woman urged the man to scram.
“Don’t you feel horrible about yourself?” she asked him. “Just walk away.”
Sometime later, a woman approached the man and grabbed his sign and stood on it, until a police officer came over to tell them to calm down.
O’Brien later elaborated on his views. “In general, places like school, you’re meant to feel safe there,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be a place like a war zone. You think you don’t have a voice, maybe you’re too young, but you can make a difference.”
The protest came as anger among students swelled in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting at a school. On Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz, 19, walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland with an AR-15 rifle and fired about 100 shots, killing 17 students and school staff and wounding 16 more, officials said. Cops arrested Cruz and prosecutors are currently weighing whether to seek the death penalty.
Monday’s protest was organized by Whitney Bowen and Eleanor Nuechterlein, both juniors at the Potomac School. They formed a group called Teens for Gun Reform and publicized the protest through Facebook.
The lie-in was designed to last three minutes to symbolize how quickly people can buy guns in the U.S.
A larger protest, “March for Our Lives,” is planned for March 24 in Washington and other cities.
That effort is being organized in part by student survivors of the Parkland massacre.