The national student-led campaign for gun control came to the Twin Cities Sunday as survivors of the Valentine's Day school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and their local allies registered young voters in Minneapolis and held an emotional town hall meeting in Osseo.
The visiting March for Our Lives activists included David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, both high-profile survivors of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. On Sunday afternoon, young people flocked to register to vote when they arrived at the OutFront booth at the Pride festival at Loring Park.
Their bus didn't make it to Minneapolis quite in time for the Parkland students to march in the midday Pride parade as planned. But Minnesotans from Students Demand Action, Moms Demand Action and West Metro Walkout received a warm welcome as they marched on behalf of the March for Our Lives.
Paton Buller, a student at Mountain Lake High School, a nearly three-hour drive from downtown Minneapolis, marched in the parade. Buller helped organize an April student walkout at his school.
"There was nothing wrong in our school till two people were expelled after they threatened other students with guns in December," he said.
"More than myself, I am worried about my three siblings who go to elementary school."
The Minnesota visit of the Road to Change bus tour Sunday through Tuesday is part of a 20-state March for Our Lives campaign.
Its leaders chose Minnesota as one of the 20 stops of the bus tour, which started June 14 in Chicago, because state voters go to the polls in November to elect their next governor, U.S. senators and representatives, state representatives, judges and other state and local officials.
Parkland student Alfonso Calderon said that way too many young Minnesotans of voting age were inactive in the last election.
'A nonpartisan issue'
The evening town hall meeting at Osseo High School started with a moment of silence for Thurman Blevins, the 31-year-old black man who died in a police shooting Saturday night, then turned to a standing ovation for the young activists.
Student leaders from Parkland, as well as schools in Chicago and the Twin Cities, told the packed auditorium that the problem they are trying to expose goes beyond guns.
Panelist Matt Deitsch, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, emphasized that the activists are not trying to take away everyone's guns or repeal the Second Amendment.
"This is no right or left thing," he said. "This is about saving lives lost due to guns. This is a nonpartisan issue which needs a bipartisan solution and support. We want to mobilize youth to vote and make them understand how their vote can play an important role in getting gun reform laws passed."
The activists' goals also include a demand for universal background checks for gun buyers, a searchable database of gun owners, funding for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to research gun violence, and a ban on high-capacity magazines and semiautomatic assault rifles.
"We are here because we are concerned over inaction of our politicians and the fact that we do not have gun control measures," said Lauren Simon, an Osseo senior who served as a panelist. "We want to keep guns out of our lives, not just schools, but from parks, restaurants, et cetera."
Other local students who were part of the panel included Jaylin Grasty from Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul, Shruthi Srinivasan from Maple Grove High School and Jorge Esparza Hernandez from Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights.
The event ended with questions and answers and a pledge to "register, educate and vote."
The tour will host a cookout Monday before heading to Moorhead, Minn., for a Tuesday event, then head on to Bismarck, N.D.
Gulam Jeelani • 612-673-4280