National School Walkout will impact downtown Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. -- Police are preparing for thousands of students and others participants to walk from Brown's Island to the Virginia State Capitol in downtown Richmond as part of National School Walkout events on Friday.

"The local organizers have been excellent about not only meeting with us, but about doing all they can to work with us to help facilitate a smooth rally," Col. Anthony S. Pike, chief of the Virginia Capitol Police, said. "Along with the Richmond Police Department and our other partners, we are committed to providing a safe environment for these folks to express their freedom of speech."

Friday's planned school walkout -- on the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting -- is part of a nationwide rally against school gun violence.

Walkout participants plan to meet on Brown's Island at noon on Friday. After a series of speeches, participants plan to march two miles to the Virginia State Capitol.

The march is scheduled to start at about 1 p.m. with an hour-long rally at the Virginia State Capitol to begin around 2 p.m.

"[We are] asking those who work, live or conduct business in downtown Richmond to show extra patience Friday," a Virginia Capitol Police spokesperson said. "[The rally] is likely to have a significant impact on traffic along several downtown streets and in the immediate area of Capitol Square from mid-morning into late afternoon."

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said while the rally would likely disrupt traffic, he said he expected it to remain peaceful.

"The Richmond Police Department and the Virginia Capitol Police have a great deal of experience dealing with large crowds," Chief Durham said.

CBS 6 also reached out to Richmond City Public Schools for their plans for the March 20 walkout.

School spokesperson Kenita Bowers said school leaders are working to identify ways for students to express themselves while on school grounds:

"RPS continues to applaud the student activists who are organizing efforts to make their voices heard surrounding the topic of gun control legislation and school violence. Given this, all RPS principals are being asked to identify ways for their students to honor the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting on Friday, April 20 that will allow them the space to share their views in a peaceful manner on campus. Student-led activities that are held within the school and do not disrupt instruction time are permissible. As previously stated, we have concluded that having large numbers of students walking off campus would pose a significant safety risk for the students themselves, so we are again focusing our efforts on allowing students to express themselves while remaining on school grounds."

Bowers went on to say that only students who have parent permission to miss school will be considered as an excused absence.