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They spilled out onto the front lawn from all corners of Santa Rosa High School — hundreds of students waving signs and chanting, a boisterous show of force and call to action on the gun violence that has terrorized their American generation.

Maddy Hilton, 16, carried a sign that read, “Lives matter more than guns. Enough is enough.” On a poster she made, she carried with her photographs of the 17 victims from last month’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school.

Her aim Wednesday was to pay tribute to the victims and raise awareness about gun violence, which she and many of her peers noted, can happen anywhere. Her parents had supported her decision to leave class.

“They raised me to stand up for what I believe in and to make change,” she said. “I don’t want to be silent anymore, that doesn’t create change.”

Santa Rosa students left classes by the hundreds Wednesday and joined thousands more across Sonoma County and the nation in a coordinated walkout meant to press for new measures to curb gun violence.

Passing motorists at Santa Rosa High honked horns in support as students gathered at 10 a.m. on the school lawn off Mendocino Avenue. They chanted, “Comprehensive gun reform! Not one more!” and “Their blood is our blood!”— a reference to the 17 people gunned down last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Several passersby cheered and waved from across the street in a show of solidarity.

Grant Anderson, a Santa Rosa High junior, said he hoped people driving by the school would understand how strongly he and his fellow students feel about the gun violence menacing schools, households and many other public and private places in the nation.

“We don’t want stuff like this to keep happening,” he said.

Principal Brad Coscarelli estimated that up to 500 students, or about a quarter of the high school’s student body, participated in the walkout.

Across the North Bay, demonstrations were held at elementary, middle and high schools from San Rafael to Cloverdale — as well as around the country — as students honored victims of mass shootings and called for tougher gun control measures. The walkouts were planned to last at least 17 minutes — a minute for each student and educator killed in the Parkland shooting.

“It’s bringing awareness to Congress,” Emma Ruderman, 17, a Santa Rosa High senior who organized the walkout at her school said this week. “We need stronger laws.”

In Petaluma, nearly 2,000 students from at least a dozen schools walked out of their classrooms. Schools included Casa Grande, Petaluma and St. Vincent de Paul high schools, as well as Kenilworth Junior High, Live Oak Charter School and McKinley Elementary School.

For 15-year-old Petaluma High School sophomore Lily Paschoal, whose cousin took shelter in the rooms of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as a 19-year-old gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle to kill 14 students and three staff members, the walkout was a poignant and emotional moment.

“We need to keep doing stuff like this and work as a community to make a difference,” she said, crying.

Petaluma High School Principal David Stirrat estimated that more than a third of the 1,300 student body participated, along with at least six staff members.

Science teacher Linda Judah was selling bright orange #NeverAgain shirts, a prominent hashtag linked to the student-led gun control movement.

“Staff are directly connected to this — three of the people killed in Parkland were staff members and we’re fairly united in the idea today from a student perspective of trying to unite around school safety rather than solve the 2nd Amendment issue,” he said. “Every student and staff member has a right to come to a safe place.”

At Sonoma Valley High School, nearly all of the 1,300 students gathered at 10 a.m. on the front lawn, where students led classmates. Passing motorists, including drivers in big rigs, honked in support. The students held signs that read, “Never again” and “I should be writing my term paper instead of my will!”

A crowd of about 100 Sonoma residents watched and cheered on the students from across the street on Broadway.

“It’s impressive that so many from the community showed up to support this,” said Bernadette Weissmann, a Sonoma Valley High history teacher and alumna. “It’s amazing.”

Mike Smith, a community activist and member of the weekly anti-war demonstrations held at the downtown Sonoma Plaza, raced across the street to hand students his American flag.

“It’s time for the next generation to take over!” he shouted, giving a whoop as students cheered.

A similar walkout was held at the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma Valley. Before walking out of the Catholic high school, students silently gathered for 17 seconds as Principal Dennis Crandall read the names of the Parkland victims, said Leslie Antonelli Petersen, the center’s event and facilities manager.

Dozens of residents joined the more than 150 Cloverdale High School students during their walkout.

Roseland Collegiate Prep students in southwest Santa Rosa signed posters that classmates created, which called for banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons, raising the gun-ownership age and providing more funding for mental health programs in schools. They also opposed the proposal now favored by the Trump administration to arm teachers.

In Sebastopol, Analy High School students observed a moment of silence. Sophomore Lily Poe, 15, and about 100 classmates gathered around the flagpole in front of the school, where they honored the Parkland victims. Poe, who carried a sign that read “Protect children not guns,” said a small group of students spoke out against stricter gun control but that the majority made passionate calls for stricter regulations, particularly after a violent threat recently was scrawled in a school bathroom. An Analy High student was arrested in that case.

“A change needs to happen,” said Poe, who helped organize the demonstration. “It’s too easy for people to buy guns and semi-automatic weapons.”

Several schools throughout the county reported receiving similar threats late last month and this month, including Santa Rosa High. Although police never found anything to indicate the threats were credible, students said it made the walkouts more personal.

“Schools don’t feel safe anymore,” said Stephanie Sottile, a 15-year-old Santa Rosa High sophomore.

She and fellow sophomore Michaela Madden, 15, urged classmates to make a stand and press for school safety.

“We didn’t just want to get out of school. We care,” Madden said about taking part in the walkout. “We don’t want to be scared. We want to learn.”

School administrators and teachers monitored the peaceful demonstration as juniors Katalina Motley and Jai Loeffler stood near the curb, chanting slogans. “End gun violence, no more silence!” they shouted.

“I’m not against guns. What I’m against is people buying assault weapons,” said Motley, 16.

Ava Luthin, an 18-year-old Santa Rosa High senior, said the walkouts were not enough. She encouraged classmates to continue advocating for gun control by reaching out to lawmakers and registering to vote.

“The people in charge need to see a drastic shift in this country. They need to see thousands of newly registered voters standing up for their lives,” she said. “We cannot let this fight fade as it has faded in the past.”

Staff writers Christian Kallen and Hannah Beausang contributed to the story. You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

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