Lincoln College Preparatory Academy students had a clear message for Kansas City Wednesday morning.
"No more guns," they shouted through the streets of the city.
About 80 students from the Kansas City Public School District walked out of school just before 10 a.m. along with thousands of other students in the Kansas City metro area and in schools across the country to protest gun violence and call for the nation's leaders to pass stricter gun laws.
"Kids are dying because of gun violence and we are frustrated," said Danielle Foster one of the two student leaders who organized the Lincoln walkout.
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Foster said the Lincoln students, like students across the country on Wednesday, were standing in solidarity with students who survived the Valentine's Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen students and teachers were killed by a 19-year-old gunman who entered that school wielding a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.
The Parkland shooting launched a gun control movement among teens. Douglas High shooting survivors, organized a nationwide student walkout, calling for sensible gun controls, including raising the minimum age for buying an assault rifle.
The list of schools in the area where students walked out and supported the sensible gun-control cause is long, including other KCPS high schools such as East, and Southeast. Walkout also were held at other school around the area including Raytown, Olathe, Lee's Summit, Center, and Northwest Missouri State University. Some schools, on spring break this week, held similar walkout events last week; others, such as Oak Park, opted for in-school assemblies and panel discussions on school safety.
"Our original plan was to do what other schools are doing, stand outside for 17 minutes, one minute for every one killed in Florida. But I thought, Lincoln can do more," Foster said. "Why not march to City Hall, where our city leaders can hear our voices."
The Lincoln students marched 2 miles to the steps of City Hall. Along the way Foster and her co-organizer, Diana Garbison, with bright yellow and blue megaphones in hand, led the group in a series of chants, which were accompanied by the honking horns of passing motorists lending support to their effort.
"Grades up, guns down," the students chanted. "Hey, hey, ho, ho, we just want the guns to go. Only love, no hate, we just want to graduate."
From the steps of City Hall Danielle told her schoolmates and adults who joined them, " we are here on the steps of City Hall to scream and shout against gun violence."
The volume of their voices drowned out another protest, on the matter of prosecution overreach, that was in progress across the street.
So those protesters joined the students with cheers and applause, "because young people are standing up and that is a good thing," said Tonya Thomas, a Kansas City resident. "A school is a place for learning, not a place for guns."
Both of the student march leaders, seniors at the nationally ranked Lincoln Prep school, said they have seen gun violence firsthand in their Northeast Kansas City neighborhood.
Gun violence, they said, is a big problem, especially in urban neighborhoods.
"It is not just our schools," said Danielle who recalled seeing a man shot just two blocks from her home. She said when she and Dianna asked students to participate in the march and share their stories about gun violence, "some of the stories brought tears to my eyes.
"Kids my age die every year because of gun violence. We have friends who have lost family members and school friends to gun violence. We are passionate about this. We just never knew how to use our voices."
Mayor Sly James heard them on Wednesday and came to the steps to greet and talk with them about their cause. Last month, in a letter to area students, James called on students to take a public stand against gun violence and to demand sensible gun laws.
"I'm proud of you," James told the students. " You are smart to do this. It seems like you are the only group that is getting traction on this issue. You are the key to this change. Don't let anyone tell you that you are too young. You are old enough, smart enough, brave enough."
James urged the 18-year-old students in the group to register to vote. Lincoln students had already discussed the issue, and on Tuesday held a voter registration drive at their school.
James told students to get familiar with proposed gun legislation laws "that are not in your best interest. " On the state level, James said, lawmakers "are considering more gun bills to allow open carry weapons in Missouri and training teachers to carry guns."
Students cheered when James slammed the National Rifle Association and politicians that the gun group supports.
"Adults are making money off of death. They don't care about your interest; they care about their money," James said.
But he also warned students that their fight will take more than a one-time march.
"This isn't a short run," he said. "You have to make the commitment for the long term. Once you get your pressure on, you can't let your foot off the pedal."
Across the state line in Kansas, hundreds of students from Topeka High School, also in solidarity with Parkland shooting survivors and their protest against gun proliferation, marched with signs and a "never again," banner by the Capitol building in the middle of the school day and were applauded by a crowd gathered around the state house steps where hundreds of other students, activists and several lawmakers rallied in favor of gun control.
Earlier this month, fueled by anger over the Parkland shooting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure that would, among other things, raise the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. Hours later the NRA filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the measure.
News reports said that in Washington, D.C. more than 2,000 high-school age protesters participated in the 17 minute silence protest by sitting on the ground with their backs turned to the White House as a church bell tolled. President Donald Trump was in Los Angeles at the time.
There, protesters carried signs with messages such as "Our Blood/Your Hands" and "Never Again" and chanted slogans against the NRA.
In New York City, they chanted, "Enough is enough!"
Students in most cases here were supported by school administrators and teachers.
In some states, such as New Jersey, Georgia and Texas, school leaders threatened students with suspension if they participated in the national walkout.
"What kind of lesson is that to teach kids?" said Scott Taylor, a Kansas City councilman who joined the Lincoln students on the City Hall steps. "I am glad that our school administrators are supporting these students' freedom of speech. We need them to continue doing this; To be vocal and hold everyone accountable."
Students said they intend to keep the pressure on national lawmakers. Parkland students have planned a national march in Washington, D.C., called a "March for Our Lives," slated for around noon on March 24.
A third national recognition is planned for April 20, the 19-year anniversary of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
The Washington Post reports that the National Park Service is expecting 500,000 people to attend the March 24 event. Also on that day cities from coast to coast — including Portland, Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, Kansas City and hundreds of others — are holding "sister marches."
James said he wants to see more than 10,000 people at the Kansas City March and promised the students at City Hall he would join them, then suggested each of them attend and bring a friend or an adult.
Danielle nodded her head in agreement.
"This is our duty," she said. "It's our time, our fight."