By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
Fifth grade students at George Mason Elementary School participated in the National Walkout Day protest against gun violence at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
The students joined fellow elementary, middle and high school students, as well as college students, across the country, in lying on the ground for 18 minutes, commemorating the 17 high school students killed in Parkland, Florida and an additional student who was killed in a school shooting in Birmingham, Alabama.
The protest was organized by students at the school, though parents still had to sign their children out of school. Parents, city officials and members of the media watched as the students lay on the ground in silence.
Mayor Allison Silberberg, who was present at the event, called the protest moving.
“I had tears in my eyes – most of the parents were passing Kleenex around. I will never forget it and it really speaks to their solidarity with the students in Parkland as well as common sense gun reform laws,” Silberberg said.
Vice Mayor Justin Wilson praised the protest via social media accounts on Wednesday.
“The future is safe in the hands of Alexandria’s students. They will change the world and get good earned media while doing it,” he said, sharing a tweet by senior Guardian U.S. reporter Lois Beckett.
The invitation, according to a social media post from Councilor John T. Chapman, was sent from an 11-year-old student at George Mason. The student said the fifth grade class was motivated to protest by both shootings and to prevent future gun violence.
“We are doing this because we don’t want to feel unsafe going to school every day and we want to improve gun safety,” the invitation read.