Student, 16, stood alone outside high school in gun violence protest

Posted at 1:29 AM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-14 23:36:18-04

RALEIGH, NC (RNN/CNN) – A North Carolina high school student left class for the National School Walkout, but when he made it outside, he realized he was the only one of 700 students to participate.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, 16-year-old Justin Blackman got up from his desk and calmly walked out of his Spanish class.

No one joined him.

Justin stood outside for 17 minutes by himself to protest gun violence in schools.

“I wanted to walk out when I realized that there’s a constant issue in the United States, and that’s school shootings. It happens too many times,” Justin said.

The 16-year-old says he was surprised that none of his approximately 700 classmates at Wilson Preparatory Academy in Wilson, NC, participated in the walkout.

He said he’d talked to people that morning, but not everyone had heard about the movement.

Justin posted a video on Twitter during his walkout, which has since gone viral.

Celebrities, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other Twitter users voiced their support for the teenager.

“I’m inspired by you for being a leader. Thank you. Every little thing makes a difference,” wrote Alexis Tracton, a freshman at Stoneman Douglas.

Others shared stories of single-student walkouts, including one by an 8-year-old in California who walked out of his second-grade classroom to protest.

Justin says when he went back inside after the 17-minute protest, his fellow students promised to walk out during next month’s protest on April 14.

“The 17 people that died in Florida, they can’t protest for anything anymore because they’re dead, and I can. So, now that I have this platform… I’m going to do the same thing I would like people with a bigger platform to do, and that’s speak,” Justin said.

Justin’s mother, Megan, says she was shocked no one else joined in, but she wasn’t surprised her son participated in the walkout.

"Justin is very opinionated," she told CNN. "He's not a follower. Strong minded."

Justin says he hopes the U.S. enacts stricter gun laws or places someone in schools to protect students.

Copyright 2018 CNN. All rights reserved. Raycom News Network contributed to this report.