parklandprotest NBC News
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High stage a walkout in memory of 17 classmates shot to death last month.

Thousands of students walk out for 17 minutes to protest gun violence

Nationwide protest follows the shooting massacre last month that killed 17 at Florida high school.

Thousands of students put down their pencils and pens and walked out of class Wednesday morning as part of a nationwide movement to protest gun violence.

The Associated Press reports that activists hoped the mass protest would be the biggest demonstration of student activism yet in response to last month’s massacre in Florida.

Some students held “Stand United” signs. Outside White House, they chanted “″Hey, hey, ho, ho - the NRA has got to go." Others read aloud the names of the victims killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

•At East Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, N.C., senior Talia Pomp said one of her best friends attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and texted her during the rampage last month, leaving an everlasting impact on her.

“That personal connection made it like super real for me ... and this has to be the last one,” said Pomp, who handed out orange T-shirts with #enough written on them to her classmates.

•Parkland High School outside Allentown, Pa., shares more than a name with the school in Parkland, Fla.

Stoneman Douglass freshman Daniel Duff, who survived the shooting by hiding in a closet but lost seven of his friends, is the cousin of Collin and Kyleigh Duff, who go to Parkland High in Pennsylvania. The Duff siblings have been selling #parklandforparkland bracelets, raising more than $10,000 for the Florida shooting victims.

Daniel Duff described what it was like to live through the shooting in a video that was shown at the rally.

“How many more mass shootings does it have to take for real change?” he said.

Parkland High students called for stricter gun laws, read short biographies of each of the 17 shooting victims and observed a moment of silence at 10 a.m. The gym was bathed in bright white light as students turned on their cellphone flashlights.

•Although some schools encouraged the walkouts and arranged the school day around them, others took a stand against protests and threatened punishment.

At Kell High School in Marietta, Ga., just northwest of Atlanta, three of the 1,000-plus students walked out, then went back inside after their 17 minutes of protest. The school had said any protesting students would be punished, but it didn’t specify the consequences.

About an hour’s drive south, in Whitfield County, Superintendent Judy Gilreath wrote a letter threatening disciplinary action for students who walked out, citing concerns about confrontations between students over gun rights. And in the Cobb County (Ga.) School District, one of the state’s largest systems, officials say the district does not support the walkouts and that students might face unspecified consequences.

But potential consequences didn’t deter some students.

“Change never happens without backlash,” says Kara Litwin, a senior in Cobb County.

VIDEO from NBC News:

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