Gov. Henry McMaster derided a movement by thousands of South Carolina high school students to join the National School Walkout as a "shameful" ploy devised by unspecified left-wing agitators.
But students who survived the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., caught wind of McMaster's statement and shot back on Twitter.
"SHAMEFUL!?! Really? Calling kids peacefully protesting shameful is shameful," said Lauren Hogg, a member of the Douglas High Class of 2021.
"If you want us to respect your second amendment you are going to have to respect our first! HYPOCRITE. Have fun in your next election 😉"
There was also this:
"That's fine those future voters will not reelect you and outlive you too can't wait to see what the history textbooks our generation writes will have to say about people like you," wrote David Hogg, a Douglas High senior, student journalist and Lauren's brother.
"*cough cough its called the first amendment," he said.
Students in McMaster's own state were also incensed.
"Our walkout was organized and executed by us, politically diverse high schoolers," said Elise Blackburn, a 17-year-old senior at Academic Magnet High in North Charleston. "The real shame is his misconception about the power of the student voice and how he fails to recognize that preventing innocent slaughter is a bipartisan issue. It is dehumanizing to call us tools when we are people with minds of our own. And we are determined to create a safer future.
"McMaster might stand to lose his job over this issue. But we stand to lose our lives," she added. "Our walkout began in silence. I believe he is scared our actions will speak louder than his words."
"To say that as governor, to say that to people protesting that they’re being used by the left wing, that completely insults the intelligence and opinions of the people in the protest," said Jacob Gamble, a senior at Ashley Ridge High in Summerville. "These are our own thoughts and opinions."
"What happened at our walkout was a peaceful demonstration of solidarity with those who were killed in Parkland, Florida," said Lauren Insinger, a senior at Wando High in Mount Pleasant. "We had people of many political stances at our moment of silence. Mr. McMaster is allowed to have his opinion, but if he were there to feel the love and respect in those hallways, he would know that though it was a call to action, Wando was filled with love and a want to do more for school safety."
The National School Walkout events were organized at the school level across South Carolina by student leaders. The call for a nationwide walkout originally came from surviving students of last month's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, as well as from the Women's March Network, a left-leaning protest organization that arose after the election of Republican President Donald Trump.
Those groups are specifically protesting the National Rifle Association's national influence and the lack of congressional action on gun control in the wake of repeated mass school shootings.
Students at schools across South Carolina walked out of class at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. In some cases, they faced threats of disciplinary action and were corralled by administrators and police into parts of campus where they would not be visible to the media.
McMaster was one of several conservative and Republican leaders critical of the event.
"It appears that these schoolchildren, innocent schoolchildren, are being used as a tool by these left-wing groups to further their own agenda," McMaster said in an interview with SCETV Wednesday. "It is not about the tragedy, it's not about the schoolchildren or what we should all do and what these students can — should do, and I imagine a lot of them intend to do, is to pray and to hope for the families of those who were slain.
"But this is a — this is a tricky move, I believe, by a left-wing group, from the information I've seen, to use these children as a tool to further their own means. It sounds like a protest to me, it's not a memorial, it's certainly not a prayer service, it's a political movement by a left-wing group, and it's shameful."
Catherine Templeton, one of McMaster's opponents in this year's Republican gubernatorial primary, chimed in Wednesday morning about the walkout on Twitter before it began.
"what time is the organized march during school hours to prevent the killing of unborn children?" Templeton tweeted at the S.C. Department of Education's official account. "What day are we walking out to put prayer back in school? Or is it only the liberals who get to take our kids away from the classroom in a Govt sanctioned march?"
@EducationSC what time is the organized march during school hours to prevent the killing of unborn children? What day are we walking out to put prayer back in school? Or is it only the liberals who get to take our kids away from the classroom in a Govt sanctioned march?— Catherine Templeton for Governor (@TempletonCath) March 14, 2018
Deanna Pan contributed to this report.