A group of black students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday issued sharp criticism of the news media and local law enforcement over the response to the shooting that killed 17 people at their school last month.
At a news conference, the group of students, led by 17-year-old Kai Koerber, said that increased law enforcement measures resulting from February’s mass shooting left black students feeling as if they were being treated like “potential criminals,” the Miami Herald reports.
“It’s bad enough we have to return with clear backpacks,” Koerber told reporters. “Should we also return with our hands up?”
Members of local Black Lives Matter activist groups concurred, saying the increased police presence at Stoneman Douglas made the building feel like a prison for students.
“They were shook. It felt like there was a thousand police there,” said Tifanny Burks, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Broward. “Having all those police there made their school feel like a prison.”
Other students who spoke at the rally questioned whether the national outrage that occurred after February’s mass shooting would extend to the police-involved shootings of Stephon Clark, Alton Sterling and Sandra Bland.
The black students’ comments come just days after about 200 of their classmates attended the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., to protest gun violence, a movement started by fellow survivors of the February school shooting.
Local leaders say that the intent was not to exclude black students from the conversation about school safety in the wake of the shooting.
“I don’t want the minority kids to be angry and feel that they’re being ignored,” said the Rev. Rosalind Osgood, a Broward County School Board member. “I don’t think anybody’s intentionally excluding them, but nobody’s intentionally including them either.”