Today, thousands of students across the United States walked out of classrooms in protest of gun violence. On the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, this is the second time in two months that students have protested as part of National School Walkout Day.

At 10 a.m. in each time zone, students walked out in a demand for action and for reform. The protest date was chosen to line up on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting, which left 13 people dead in Littleton, Colorado. Some students headed to rallies, others stayed at school to hold discussions on gun violence. There were 2,700 registered walkouts on the event’s site, and protests in New York City and Austin, Texas, are expected to attract thousands.

David Hogg, a student activist from Marjory Stoneman High School where 17 people were killed by a shooter on Feb. 14th, spoke about the importance of National School Walkout Day on social media.

“We have to stop this. We’re not going to be able to stop this unless we continue to make our voices heard, though, when our elected officials won’t,” Hogg said in a video. “We have to get out there and make our voices heard, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.”

Just before the walkouts, a student in Ocala, Florida, was shot in the ankle while protesting at Forest High School. The 19-year-old suspect, who was not a student at the school, has been taken into custody.

Before today’s protests, the official event site offered walkout planning guides, social media toolkits, and a way to register new student chapters and walkouts. Actor Robert DeNiro even wrote an excuse letter for students to give to teachers, saying, “I’ve asked you to excuse__________for the same reasons I’ve asked for my children to be excused in the past…” He continued on to list health, respect/memorial, community service, good citizenship and education as reasons.

In an interview with CNN, Hiam Baidas, a student demonstrator from Falls Church, Virginia, explained why she was protesting. “Right now, I’m 18 years old, I live right across the street from Walmart, and I can go buy a gun — and I don’t think that’s OK,” she said. “I think the youth are the movement that is going to change and better our country.”

 

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