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Why Is The National School Walkout On April 20? The Date Is Very Significant

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A little over a month ago, more than one million students and their allies left their classrooms in a historic walkout protesting gun violence. One of three major demonstrations that would take place this spring calling for gun reform, the March 14 walkout took place on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. So why is the National School Walkout on April 20?

On Friday, students and school personnel across the country began walking out to demand change on the part of lawmakers in protecting students from gun violence. April 20 marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting that claimed the lives of 13 people in 1999. Per the National School Walkout website, organizers chose the date specifically to honor that tragedy. And as with all three of the demonstrations, the catalyst was the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Florida that left 17 dead.

"As the future of America, it is time for teenagers to speak their minds and put their frustration into action," reads the official National School Walkout petition. "Nothing has changed since Columbine, let us start a movement that lets the government know the time for change is now." The walkout was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and continue until the end of the school day.

Friday's walkout, like the other two mass demonstrations against gun violence this spring, is being led by students. The March For Our Lives on March 24 was organized by MSD students, and the March 14 #Enough National Student Walkout was organized by EMPOWER, the youth arm of the Women's March organization. Following suit, the National School Walkout on Friday is being led by students from Connecticut, and the petition was started by 16-year-old Lane Murdock.

"We're walking out because we all deserve to live in safety, no matter the color of your skin or the zip code you live in," read a tweet from the official National School Walkout account. Organizers are calling on lawmakers to address the problem.

As of writing, the petition had accrued over 256,000 signatures indicating a pledge to participate, and there were over 2,600 schools listed as participating, per the organizers.

The previous two demonstrations this spring have also garnered large turnouts. According to organizers, over one million participated in the March 14 walkout in over 3,000 schools nationwide. An estimated 200,000 people attended the official MFOL in Washington D.C., though organizers put that number at 850,000 (which, if accurate, would dwarf the record-breaking attendance of the 2017 Women's March). Some 800 sister marches took place around the world, and in the U.S. alone, the marches drew an estimated total of 1.2 million attendees.

Photos and videos on Twitter showed large turnouts on Friday as well.

On social media, the National School Walkout received support from far and wide, including from its peers who organized the March 14 walkout and MFOL.

"So proud of the #NationalSchoolWalkout and all of the students around the country who are standing up for positive change and demanding what we deserve," tweeted Cameron Kasky on Friday. "Keep marching forward and NEVER settle for less."

Both the March 14 walkout and MFOL were bolstered by backing and support of many prominent celebrities, politicians, and change-makers who donated, promoted, and performed for the cause. The April walkout also has some star power. Actors Julianne Moore and Robert DeNiro wrote blank letters excusing students en masse for their participation on Friday.

Official crowd and participation estimates had not been released as of writing. But there seems to be little question that the April 20 walkout would follow in the footsteps of the previous two demonstrations this year in rallying support against gun violence in schools.