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MTV, Other Viacom Networks Cut Programming During National School Walkouts

The 17-minute program-shift and walkouts paid tribute to the 17 lives lost one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

As thousands of students across the county walked out of school to protest gun violence Wednesday, MTV and other Viacom networks joined the cause by suspending programming for 17 minutes during the demonstrations.

Shows on MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, CMT and other Viacom networks and platforms were cut about 10 a.m. when the National School Walkout officially began.

The names and pictures of young activists affected by gun violence appeared silently on MTV, including 22-year-old Sarah from D.C., whose mother was a staff member at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Though her mother survived the 2012 massacre at the school, Sarah was impacted by the loss of 20 first-graders and some of her mom's colleagues. She now marches and works with advocacy groups as a "fierce voice against gun violence," MTV wrote onscreen. 

The 17-minute program-shift paid tribute to the 17 lives lost one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Police say Nikolas Cruz, a former student, walked into the school on Feb. 14 and opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, killing 14 students and three staff members. Cruz has been indicted on 17 counts of premeditated first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Adam, a 27-year-old from New York, was also honored on MTV. He was moved by the 2014 Pulse Nightclub Shooting to form the Gays Against Guns group. A quotation from Adam appeared onscreen: "People want to help and show up, they just don't always know how."

And Martese, a 23-year-old from Chicago's South Side, spent time in college protesting gun violence. After his childhood friend was shot and killed, he joined Generation Progress' Gun Violence Prevention Network.

A simple black screen with white text appeared on Comedy Central, reading, "Viacom stands with all students as they participate in the National School Walkout against gun violence."

Social media posts showed photos of Nickelodeon during the protest. According to the tweets, the network aired a bright orange screen with the words "In support of kids leading the way today, Nickelodeon will be off the air until 17 minutes past the hour."

One Twitter user praised the network for a job "well done." Another user called Nickelodeon "always superior."

MTV and Comedy Central also changed their Twitter pictures, MTV to an orange logo and Comedy Central to a black circle, in solidarity with the students' anti-gun violence movements.

Some protesters posted on MTV's Look Different Twitter account, with one writing, "We, the students call all the politicians to action. Protect us. #NationalWalkoutDay #ENOUGH"

Viacom’s support for the young activists extended to the top, with Viacom board vice chair Shari Redstone personally donating $500,000 to the March for Our Lives movement.

In a Tuesday statement, Viacom executive Marva Smalls explained why her company took steps to stand with the high school students.

“This generation continues to be the driving force for change,” Smalls said. “We believe it’s critical to support the inspiring efforts of our youth, who are literally fighting for their lives. Viacom also has a responsibility to our audiences to do everything we can to elevate the many brave and bold activists to help them extend the reach and impact of their voices in this important movement.”

The media giant said it would continue its support through the day. In a statement, Viacom said Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” would add to its coverage of the anti-gun violence movement, and “The Opposition With Jordan Klepper” would build on its interviews with students and officials related to arming teachers, which President Donald Trump suggested as a solution to stopping school shooting. And Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards would recognize the marches during the show.

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