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Ashma Thapa's sign originally read "Protect Kids Not The NRA." She told the Times Union's Bethany Bump that school officials said the sign in its original form was too political.







Photos from the Albany High School walkout, and talking with the student organizers


About 200 Albany High School students participated in a school walkout Wednesday to protest gun violence, one of many similar events at other schools around the region and the country prompted by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The students gathered, with the support of the school's administration, for a short (voluntary) assembly ahead of the walkout to talk about focusing attention on issues such as gun control and the importance of speaking up and voting. Then they headed out to march around the school grounds for roughly 17 minutes, a tribute to the people killed in Florida.

"You never know if it can be you," said senior class president Shafiyq Grady after the march. "Just like the 17 students at Parkland, it could have been 17 Albany High students. We shouldn't wait around for something to happen here to take action."

Here are a handful of photos from the march, along with a quick talk with the student organizers -- about why they decided to act, politics today, and how people perceive Albany High School...


There are a handful of photos from the walk around the school grounds at the top -- click or scroll all the way up.

Talking with student organizers

From left to right: Naishaly Velez, Albany schools superintendent Kaweeda Adams, Shamyla Bhatti, Shafiyq Grady, Ashma Thapa, Anna Kennedy.

Wednesday's event at Albany High School was organized by Shafiyq Grady and members of the school's social action club: Naishaly Velez, Shamyla Bhatti, Ashma Thapa, and Anna Kennedy.

What was it about everything that's happened lately that prompted you to act today?

Shafiyq Grady: You never know if it can be you. Just like the 17 students at Parkland, it could have been 17 Albany High students. We shouldn't wait around for something to happen here to take action.

Do you see a role for younger people to stand up and do something?

Anna Kennedy: [Students] our age have all lived through multiple shootings, whether it be school shootings or otherwise. It's just become so normalized to us, but we need to recognize this is not what's supposed to be happening and it's not normal. And we need to make a change.

How do you see a way for you to make a change in what's happening?

Naishaly Velez: We are going to be the next voting generation and I feel like we need to make our opinions and voices heard now. That way lawmakers and government can impact us while we have a chance.

Shafiyq Grady: Yeah, we're going to be the largest voting pool in a long time.

What do you all think when you see adults doing politics today?

Shamyla Bhatti: We find it to actually be kind of ridiculous. We have our after-school clubs, we kind of talk about it, we just give our opinions back and forth, and we don't feel like the president of our country is fit to be president.

Shafiyq Grady: I feel like they don't take into consideration what the people need as much. A lot of it has to do with money and their own personal beliefs. But when you're a person in power you have to put what you want and you need aside because you're representing the people and not yourself.

How would you like to see politics different in this country?

Anna Kennedy: Money needs to get out of politics. And we need to be receptive to the people we represent, to their needs and their safety.

What do you all want people to know about Albany High School?

(big reaction from all five)

Naishaly Velez: I just want to say that as we are an urban school, we're in the center of the city -- outside people may perceive us as we experience more violence or we just have a difficult daily life. But that's not the case. As Albany High students we all come from a similar background -- and even if not, we all go to the same school. And we're just like any other school. We can experience violence on occasion. It doesn't make us. It doesn't define us.

Shafiyq Grady: I feel like when something bad happens the media runs over to cover it. But when something good happens, where's the media then? We have the same amount of fights and things as other high schools, but I don't know why they like to perceive us as bad all the time.

Ashma Thapa: We care about issues like this and we are taking actions against it. We want to tell people that we're not sitting at the corner, we're raising our voice and speaking out and organizing things like this.

Anna Kennedy: Albany High is about opportunity and not violence or classism or anything like that.

This interview has been lightly edited.


Kudos to Albany High for allowing the students to express themselves in a peaceful way.

I applaud these future leaders of America. Keep speaking up and go vote! So proud of this generation.

So proud!!

So proud of these student citizens for using their power to speak up and protest peacefully. (NB. A less visible but well-attended walkout at Hackett Middle School today: 400+ students.) Great things really ARE happening at Albany Public Schools. Our students give me hope for a saner, more peaceful future. Well done!

Do yourself a favor and avoid TV news coverage. The trolling and the indecency in how some folks view these kids standing up for themselves is really, really disheartening.

Who censored that girl's sign? Who had that right?

And anyone can support this worthy protest, come one, come all to the State Capitol Saturday March the 24th!! It is time to heal the wounds of this trigger happy environment.

Censorship of the acronym NRA? WTF? Not cool.

You can see a piece of last letter at the right edge, so clearly there are more than 3 letters censored. It is either a long word, at least 6-7 letters, or 2 words.

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