10,000+ high school students expected to converge on VA Capitol

10,000+ high school students expected to converge on VA Capitol
Source: NBC12

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - More than 10,000 high school students are expected to converge on the state Capitol on Friday, rallying for tougher gun control.

This is the second, nationwide walkout planned since the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died. Friday is also the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Students across the country are set to walk out of class at 10 a.m. Central Virginia students, and others across the state, are set to meet at Brown's Island at noon, for a pre-rally. That event will involve a meet-and-greet with legislators, student speeches, music and on-site voter registration.

The crowd will then march up 7th Street to the state Capitol, where according to the "National School Walkout" event's website, they'll protest "the government's inaction and inability to address school shootings and gun violence."

This comes after a similar walkout exactly one month after the shooting in Parkland. Students, however, did not leave campus. Most held a vigil and demonstration on school grounds, and then went back to class.

Weeks later, hundreds of thousands of teenagers descended on D.C. for the "March for our Lives" protest. Friday, more than 2,100 school walkouts are planned across the nation.

"I think it's beautiful. I think change needs to occur. And I support it full-heartedly," said Richmond high school student Guthrie Moore.

Virginia Capitol Police say student organizers have been coordinating with authorities. Students will march up 7th Street from Brown's Island, with a police escort, to the Capitol steps for the official demonstration at 2 p.m.

The governor and other legislators are expected to attend. Streets will be blocked off, and some courts, like the Virginia Supreme Court, the Virginia Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court, are closing starting at noon.

A source says that construction on the General Assembly building will also be halted at noon.

Capitol Police are allowing a stretch of 9th Street between Grace and Bank Streets, as a drop off/pickup area for any students participating in the rally.

Dr. Ravi Perry, a police science professor at VCU, says more and more young voters are having an impact on American elections, with their numbers growing at the polls since the early 2000s.

"Young people are voters too. Eighteen and older is the way we do it, in this country," said Dr. Perry. "This idea that somehow older people are more knowledgeable of the political system, really is not necessarily the case. It's often usually young people…who are really very up on the issues and the new laws and the new data. So, sometimes we need to listen to them."

The governor and other legislators will be at the protest.

Some school districts, like Henrico and Hanover, said that the students who do not get written permission from their parents to leave campus, will be marked with an unexcused absence.

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