In a show of support for gun violence victims, thousands of students and their supporters will take to the streets Saturday morning for the March for Our Lives demonstration, a nationwide protest to call for school safety measures and stricter gun control laws.
The main event is happening in Washington, D.C., but there are 13 Minnesota marches also scheduled for Saturday. The biggest local march is expected to take place in St. Paul. Marchers will congregate at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul at 9:30 a.m. and will head to the State Capitol as part of the 800 sister marches planned around the country.
Meanwhile, hundreds of the state’s students traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to join the #NeverAgain movement founded by Florida students who survived one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Seventeen people were killed on Feb. 14, when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and began shooting.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he has been moved by the courage of students, teachers and families marching on Saturday, has declared March 24 “March for Our Lives Day” in Minnesota.
The local chapter of Moms Demand Action, an advocacy group pushing for gun reforms, and a gun violence prevention group called Protect Minnesota are lending support to Students Demand Action, a group that advocates for tighter gun laws, to spearhead the St. Paul march.
St. Paul police spokesman Sgt. Mike Ernster said they are expecting 10,000 or possibly more people at the march. This weekend’s weather initially called for snow on Saturday, but it appears it will miss the metro. Organizers estimated 3,000 attendees on their permit application for the march.
Wabasha Street is going to see significant delays, Ernster said, and people should use alternate routes such as Interstate 94 or Shepard Road, especially from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Participants have been advised to carpool or use metro transit.
“I kind of look back to the Women’s March; we didn’t know what we were gonna get that year. Then we ended with close to 100,000 people,” Ernster said. “We’re going to be helping with moving this march along. It’s a permitted event and we’re working with some organizers” to make sure it’s a safe march.
Organizers are telling student marchers to report to Harriet Island and are telling supporters to wait at the Capitol because of the limited space at the park. At the Capitol, student speakers will share their personal experiences with gun violence and talk about the toll the surge in threats on schools has taken on them. There, officials from the League of Women Voters will register students who will be eligible to vote in November.
“We want people to see everybody in such large numbers to prove the point that the NRA has no place in politics where people’s lives are involved,” said lead organizer Ana Hymson, who recently graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and now lives in Minnesota. “I hope that we can walk away with the feeling that we did something.”