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#ENOUGH Empty shoes, empty schools: US gun law activists plan two days of drama

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The monument is being built on the day before a massive, nationwide walkout by students demanding tougher laws on gun ownership, part of a campaign that emerged after the killing of 17 students and staff at a Florida high school a month ago.

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2018 file photo shows Denyse Christian, hugging her son Adin Christian, 16, a student at the school, at a makeshift memorial outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Parkland citys historian Jeff Schwartz is setting a plan in motion to collect, archive and preserve the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mementos. Meanwhile, school administrators have vowed to build a memorial after the demolition of the building where the Feb. 14 attack took place. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

A makeshift memorial made
up of 7,000 pairs of shoes will take shape on the lawn of the
US Capitol on Tuesday, as gun control activists dramatise the
number of children killed in the United States by gunfire since
the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre.

The monument is being built on the day before a massive,
nationwide walkout by students demanding tougher laws on gun
ownership, part of a campaign that emerged after the killing of
17 students and staff at a Florida high school a month ago.

“This is really about putting the human cost of refusing to
pass gun control at the doorstep of lawmakers,” said Emma
Ruby-Sachs, deputy director of Avaaz, a US-based civic
organisation that planned the shoe memorial. The Capitol is the
home of the US Congress.

Wednesday’s #ENOUGH National School Walkout, organised by
the activists who helped plan the Women’s March in Washington
for the past two years, will begin at 10 am local time (1400
GMT).

Students across the country will walk out of their
classrooms for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 victims who lost
their lives after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The massacre was the deadliest school shooting since 20
children and six adults were shot dead at Sandy Hook elementary
school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.

The walkout has won the support from many school districts
and civil rights organisations, including the American Civil
Liberties Union. More than 2,500 walkouts are scheduled across
the country, according to the organiser’s website.

Some schools will allow students to participate and have
encouraged them to exercise their free speech rights under the
First Amendment of the US Constitution. A few have threatened
to suspend students if they disrupt class by leaving.

“When students protest at schools, our school staff will
respond appropriately and allow our students to be heard,” said
Robert Runcie, superintendent for public schools for Broward
County, Florida, where Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman is located.

About 1 300 people younger than age 18 are killed by gunfire
in the United States every year, according to the US Centres
for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dozens of colleges and universities across the country,
including at least three Ivy League schools, have said their
application processes will not consider disciplinary action
taken against high school students who engage in protests.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, activists and volunteers will
begin at dawn placing 7 000 pairs of donated children’s shoes
side by side in a trapezoid shape to commemorate those who have
died since the Newtown massacre. Donors include actresses Susan
Sarandon and Bette Midler, and talk show host Chelsea Handler.

The memorial is reminiscent of a monument on the Danube
River near the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest commemorating
thousands of people, including Jews, killed by fascists in the
1940s.

Many Canadian cities have marked the National Day of
Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6
with similar “shoe memorials.”

Reuters