MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Hundreds of Minneapolis high school students walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence and make their voices heard to city officials, who quickly moved to support a statewide assault weapons ban in Minnesota.

The walkout began around noon, a week after 17 people were killed in a Florida high school shooting by a former student armed with an AR-15 rifle.

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The demonstration in Minneapolis involved students from several high schools, including Washburn, Roosevelt, Southwest, South, and DeLaSalle.

The students gathered in south Minneapolis and walked up to six miles in 15-degree weather to Minneapolis City Hall.

Along the way, they were joined by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who chanted alongside the students and promised that the city council would help them in their push for gun law changes.

“What we all want to tell you is that we have your back,” Frey said.

Many of the demonstrating students, such as Washburn junior Katrina Hanson, said they feared shootings in their schools.

“I’m marching because there’s students like me, my age and younger, dying from gun violence,” she said.

While they understood that city lawmakers don’t have the power to ban weapons or enact gun control laws, the students felt it was important to make their voices heard.

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“This is not about who our president is, it’s not about whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, this is about children dying,” one student said before the city council.

After listening to students, the city council quickly moved to pass a motion in support of a statewide ban on assault weapons, bump stocks, silencers and extended magazines.

The vote makes Minneapolis the first city in the state to publicly support a statewide ban on assault weapons.

The student walkout demonstration in Minneapolis was one of several across the country. In Florida, the survivors of last week’s massacre pushed their state lawmakers for stricter gun laws. Some were part of a round table discussion on gun safety with President Donald Trump.

A Minneapolis Public Schools spokesperson released this statement on Wednesday’s walkout:

Last week’s school shooting in Florida made an impact on people throughout our country. While we have policies in place to keep our students as safe as possible, many people are wondering what else can be done. Across the nation, students have been especially active in speaking out on this issue, and they have organized a number of activities in response to the shooting.

What’s become clear is these tragedies occur too often, and something has to change. There are no easy answers, but it’s time for our country to have a real conversation about how to move forward to protect our students and teachers. It’s been profound to see that conversation being led by students.

We encourage our families to have conversations with their students about their expectations and participation in non-school sponsored activities, including walkouts. MPS respects students’ First Amendment right to peacefully assemble, and we will not discipline students for the act of protesting as long as the protest remains peaceful. However, the best way for us to ensure student safety during the school day is to know where our students are—that’s simply not possible once they leave school grounds. At this time, our normal policies regarding student attendance and walkouts still apply.

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The Superintendent’s senior leadership team will be meeting this week to discuss further considerations for national walkouts planned in March and April. We will share more information as these conversations continue.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield