A quiet morning calm was broken by an energetic clamor of voices spilling into the streets surrounding Fort Hamilton High School on Wednesday, March 14 as hundreds of students staged a walkout protest, hoping to add Brooklyn’s own chorus to the ongoing national debate on gun violence.
While the large crowd included teachers, community advocates and concerned parents, it was for the most part comprised of students. Protest signs in hand, they spilled out of the gate at 85th Street and Narrows Avenue and into the surrounding neighborhood. Arrayed along the sidewalks and into the street, they chanted in unison, making their intentions clear:
“NRA go away! NRA go away! No justice. No peace.”
The walkout is one of the many that have recently swept the country following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida which claimed the lives of 17 people.
As the national conversation on gun control has raged, students from across the country have waded into the forefront of the ongoing debate. Fort Hamilton’s protest, organized with the assistance of school staff, helped these students add their voices to the dialogue.
“We need to get the word out,” said Freshman Najib Al-Gahmi, “There have to be stricter gun laws for better security.”
“Yeah,” another freshman Ali Twaiti chimed in, “and we should remember everyone that was lost.”
Along with the students were a number of concerned citizens ranging from parents to local residents. Noreen Carducci, a former Fort Hamilton student and Bay Ridge resident, showed up in support of the protest.
“I’m here to support the students,” she said over the chanting crowd. “All these students rising up, something good could happen. The government hasn’t done a thing; they’ve been ignoring the issue.”
The sentiment of government inactivity towards gun violence in schools seemed a recurrent worry for participants. Reverend Khader El-Yateem, who ran unsuccessfully for a City Council spot last year and was also in attendance, agreed.
“I hope this sends a strong message to elected officials,” he said. “These students are future leaders and voters, and if they don’t end gun violence, they’ll be the ones to drive them out of office.”
The protest lasted until 10:30 a.m. when teachers ushered their students back into school, police left, the media cleared out and the streets fell silent once again.
However, it is the resounding hope of those who attended that their small effort would echo into the larger debate with force seemed clear. In the words of freshman Hadi Ahmed, “Rest in peace to everyone who died. They should be remembered.”
Fort Hamilton was not alone in joining the protest. Among the other local schools where students walked out at 10 a.m. were the High School of Telecommunications, McKinley Junior High School and Bay Ridge Prep.