Category Archives: Keeping Watch on Earth News

NYTimes video: National School Walkout – Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the U.S.

Repost from The New York Times
[Editor: For Benicia Walkout coverage, see here.  For Vallejo coverage, see here.]

National School Walkout: Thousands Protest Against Gun Violence Across the U.S.

A month ago, hundreds of teenagers ran for their lives from the hallways and classrooms of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staff had been shot to death.

On Wednesday, driven by the conviction that they should never have to run from guns again, they walked.

So did their peers. In New York City, in Chicago, in Atlanta and Santa Monica; at Columbine High School and in Newtown, Conn.; and in many more cities and towns, students left school by the hundreds and the thousands at 10 a.m., sometimes in defiance of school authorities, who seemed divided and even flummoxed about how to handle their emptying classrooms.

The first major coordinated action of the student-led movement for gun control marshaled the same elements that had defined it ever since the Parkland shooting: eloquent young voices, equipped with symbolism and social media savvy, riding a resolve as yet untouched by cynicism.

“We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?” said Kaylee Tyner, a 16-year-old junior at Columbine High School outside Denver, where 13 people were killed in 1999, inaugurating, in the public consciousness, the era of school shootings. “Why does this keep happening?”

Even after a year of near continuous protesting — for women, for the environment, for immigrants and more — the emergence of people not even old enough to drive as a political force has been particularly arresting, unsettling a gun control debate that had seemed impervious to other factors.

In Florida, where students from Stoneman Douglas High and other schools had rallied in the state capital, the governor signed a bill last week that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.

On a national level, the students have not had the same impact. This week, President Trump abandoned gun control proposals that the Republican-led Congress had never even inched toward supporting.

But, for one day at least, the students commanded the country’s airwaves, Twitter feeds and Snapchat stories.

Principals and superintendents seemed disinclined to stop them. Some were outright supportive, though others warned that students would face disciplinary consequences for leaving school. At many schools, teachers and parents joined in.

Wreathed in symbolism, the walkouts generally lasted for 17 minutes, one for each of the Parkland victims. Two more nationwide protests are set to take place on March 24 and on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

On a soccer field burned yellow by the Colorado sun, Ms. Tyner stood alongside hundreds of her fellow students, who waved signs — “This is our future,” one said — and released red, white and blue balloons.

Yet in many places, for many students, Wednesday was just Wednesday, and class went on. Even at Columbine, the embrace of the gun control movement was not universal.

“People say it’s all about gun control, it’s all about, ‘We should ban guns,’” said Caleb Conrad, 16, a junior, who stayed in class. “But that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is the people who are doing it.”

In the one-school rural community of Potosi, Wis., no student group had organized a protest. After a handful of students expressed some interest, the school decided to hold an assembly at 10 a.m. to talk about school safety measures and the value of being kind to one another.

At 10 a.m., one student, a female freshman, left the building alone.

Throughout the assembly, she sat by herself outside, by a flagpole, for 17 minutes. She appeared to be praying, said the principal, Mike Uppena, adding that she was not in trouble for leaving.

Officials in Lafayette Parish, La., initially said that students could participate in the day’s events, believing that it was appropriate to honor the Florida victims. But when it became clear there was a political motive to the walkout, a torrent of complaints from the local community led the school board to adopt a new plan: a minute of silence.

Dozens of students walked out anyway.

Photo

Students walked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, one month after 17 people were killed in a shooting at the school. CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times

Out of Class and Into the Streets

In some places, demonstrators chanted and held signs. At other schools, students stood in silence. In Atlanta, some students took a knee.

Thousands of New York City students converged on central locations — Columbus Circle, Battery Park, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Lincoln Center.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, stretched out on the sidewalk as part of a “die-in” with students in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the former home of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Hundreds sat in the middle of West 62nd Street for several minutes before rising to their feet and shouting, “No more violence.” A cry of “Trump Tower!” sent dozens of protesters marching toward the Trump International Hotel and Tower across Broadway. Onlookers gave them fist-bumps.

In Washington, thousands left their classrooms in the city and its suburbs and marched to the Capitol steps, their high-pitched voices battling against the stiff wind: “Hey-hey, ho-ho, the N.R.A. has got to go!” One sign said: “Fix This, Before I Text My Mom from Under A Desk.”

Members of Congress, overwhelmingly Democratic, emerged from the Capitol to meet them. Trailed by aides and cameras, some legislators high-fived the children in the front rows, others took selfies, and nearly all soon learned that the young protesters had no idea who they were.

Except, of course, for “BERNIE SANDERS!” which the protesters screamed at the Vermont senator, as well at some other white-haired, bespectacled legislators.

Photo

A screenshot of a Snap map for student walkouts in the New York City area.

Asked by reporters about the walkouts, Raj Shah, Mr. Trump’s deputy press secretary, said the president “shares the students’ concerns about school safety” and cited his support for mental health and background check improvements.

As the hours passed, the walkouts moved west across the country.

“It’s 10 o’clock,” said a man on the intercom at Perspectives Charter Schools on Chicago’s South Side. With that, hundreds of students streamed out of their classrooms and into the neighborhood, marching past modest brick homes, a Walgreens and multiple churches.

Photo

Posters advertising the walkout at Perspectives Charter Schools in Chicago. CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times

Several current and former Perspectives students have been killed in recent years, the school president said.

“You see different types of violence going on,” said Armaria Broyles, a junior who helped lead the walkout and whose older brother was killed in a shooting. “We all want a good community and we all want to make a change.”

At Santa Monica High School in Southern California, teachers guided hundreds of students to the football field. It felt like a cross between a political rally and pep rally, with dozens of students wearing orange T-shirts, the color of the gun control movement, and #neveragain scrawled onto their arms in black eyeliner.

“It is our duty to win,” Roger Gawne, a freshman and one of the protest organizers, yelled to the crowd.

Staying Silent, for the Opposite Reason

Although the walkouts commanded attention on cable television and social media for much of Wednesday, it also was clear that many students did not participate, especially in rural and conservative areas where gun control is not popular.

At Bartlesville High School in Bartlesville, Okla., where hundreds of students walked out of class last month to protest cuts in state education funding, nothing at all happened at 10 a.m.

“I haven’t heard a word about it,” the principal, LaDonna Chancellor, said of the gun protest.

In Iowa, Russell Reiter, superintendent of the Oskaloosa Community School District, suggested that temperatures below 40 degrees may have encouraged students to stay indoors, but he also said that “students here are just not interested in what is going on in bigger cities.”

There was opposition even in liberal Santa Monica. Just after the organizers of the walkout there read the names of the Parkland victims, another student went on stage, grabbed the microphone and shouted “Support the Second Amendment!” before he was called off by administrators.

‘We Need More Than Just 17 Minutes’

Some of the day’s most poignant demonstrations happened at schools whose names are now synonymous with shootings.

Watched by a phalanx of reporters, camera operators and supporters, hundreds of students crowded onto the football field at Stoneman Douglas High shortly after 10 a.m.

A month after the Feb. 14 shooting, notes of condolence, fading flowers and stuffed toys, damp from recent rain, still lay on the grass outside the school and affixed to metal fences.

The walkout was allowed by the school, but several students said they were warned that they would not be permitted back onto the campus for the day if they left school grounds. Despite the warning, a couple of hundred students marched to a nearby park for another demonstration.

Photo

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., gathered at the nearby Pine Trails Park.CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times

“We need more than just 17 minutes,” Nicolle Montgomerie, 17, a junior, said as she walked toward the park.

An email from the school soon went out telling students they could return.

In Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hundreds of students at Newtown High School gathered in a parking lot near the football field. Two hours later, it was Columbine’s turn.

Photo

Students rallied for gun control legislation in Manhattan on Wednesday. CreditKirsten Luce for The New York Times

A Word or Two From Gun Rights Groups

Shortly after the walkouts began, the National Rifle Association said on Twitter, “Let’s work together to secure our schools and stop school violence.”

But the next tweet left no doubt as to where the N.R.A. stood on the message of the protests. It said, “I’ll control my own guns, thank you. #2A #NRA” atop a photo of an AR-15, the kind of high-powered rifle used at Stoneman Douglas High and in other mass shootings.

The Gun Owners of America, a smaller organization often seen as more militant than the N.R.A., was more defiant.

The group urged its supporters to call their elected officials to oppose gun control measures like Fix NICS, which is intended to improve reporting by state and federal agencies to the criminal background check system. “We could win or lose the gun control battle in the next 96 hours,” the group said on Twitter.

The group also celebrated “the pro-gun students who are not supporting their anti-gun counterparts.”

Warnings From Schools, Not Always Heeded

Some schools accommodated or even encouraged the protests. But others warned that they would mark students who left as absent, or even suspend them.

In Cobb County, Ga., near Atlanta, the threat of punishment did not keep scores of Walton High School students from standing in silence on the football field for 170 seconds. A school district spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on what would happen to the students.

Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy for AASA, the association of the nation’s superintendents, said that schools had to balance the First Amendment rights of students with their other responsibilities, including safety.

Indeed, several protests were canceled because of threats of the same kind of violence the students were demonstrating against. A demonstration at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C., was called off when the principal learned of what she later described as “a false rumor of a threat and a post on social media that caused unnecessary fear among our school community.”

    Marilyn Bardet on AB617, California’s Community Air Protection Program

    February 19, 2018

    Benicia air monitoring advocate Marilyn Bardet spoke powerfully at a recent workshop held by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board.  Her comments nicely summarize the longstanding neglect of air monitoring in Benicia and the need for state and regional agencies to include Benicia in upcoming community outreach regarding AB617, the Community Air Protection Program.

    Here is the 2-minute video clip of Marilyn and the encouraging  1-minute response from the BAAQMD’s Greg Nudd.  Below is more info and the video of the full workshop.

    Highly recommended: highly informative video of the entire 2:39 minute workshop:

    Full length video of the January 31, 2018 workshop, 2 hours 39 minutes.  (Note that audio doesn’t start until minute 13:20, and the meeting begins at 15:55.  You can move the slider forward to skip the first part.)

    MORE about AB617, the Community Air Protection Program:

      CA State Senator seeks higher fines for illegal refinery emissions

      Press Release from CA Senate District 3, Rep. Bill Dodd

      Sen. Dodd seeks higher fines for illegal refinery emissions

      Friday, February 16, 2018

      SACRAMENTO – Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) introduced a new bill to help deter harmful emissions from oil refineries. The bill would increase fines for serious violations of emissions standards that sicken people or force shelter-in-place orders.

      “There are already fines on the books for illegal refinery emissions, but the most common fine hasn’t been increased since Richard Nixon was in the White House,” said Senator Dodd. “When people are sickened by refinery emissions or forced to shelter-in-place, there should be stiffer penalties. My bill reinforces that oil companies should take proactive steps to avoid violations in the first place.”

      Dodd’s bill, SB 1144, would triple existing fines for violations of emissions standards if the violations cause a health problem or impact over 25 people. Existing law doesn’t allow increased penalties for violations that injure nearby residents or for refineries with multiple violations. Currently, the maximum amount for the most common level of fines is $10,000 and hasn’t been adjusted since 1974.

      Dodd’s bill would set the new fine at $30,000, and if refineries are found negligent, the amount would go up to $75,000 per day. In instances where a refinery fails to correct a known violation or intentionally violates standards, the violations would be even greater. For serial offenders with multiple serious violations within 36 months, the fines could be as much as $500,000 per day.

      “Representing communities that house several refineries, I want to encourage the industry to be proactive in meeting their duty to neighboring residents,” said Senator Dodd. “This measure isn’t a silver bullet for addressing safety, but it certainly provides greater incentive to act responsibly.”

      Senator Dodd’s district includes the majority of the Bay Area’s refineries. In September 2016, numerous Vallejo residents were sickened by a refinery incident that triggered over 1,500 complaints. The state’s Office of Emergency Services reported that area hospitals and medical facilities treated 120 patients for headaches, nausea, dizziness, and burning of the eyes, nose and throat. The Bay Area Air Quality Management issued a notice of violation to the refinery in Rodeo for that incident.

      The funds from the fines in Dodd’s bill would be available to support more robust monitoring and enforcement. The bill is expected to come up for a committee vote next month.

      ###
      Related imageSenator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa Counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.