Students plan to walk out, rally for gun control

Students lead the way up Wabasha St.
Students lead the way up Wabasha St. at the beginning of the Minnesota March For Our Lives in St. Paul, Minn. on Saturday, March 24, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News File

Minnesota students plan to walk out of class and gather at the State Capitol Friday to call for stricter gun control measures.

Organizers expect students from around the state to meet at the Capitol for an afternoon of voter registration, speeches and musical performances. The students plan to push for changes including removing police officers from schools, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and tighter restrictions on gun purchases.

The event comes just over a month after Minnesota students joined others around the nation in a walkout on the one-month anniversary of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

"My biggest fear right now is that eventually the ball will stop rolling, and our legislators will think that we've forgotten and that we aren't paying attention anymore," St. Paul Central High School senior Elena Medeiros said.

The State Capitol rally coincides with a nationwide school walkout organized to commemorate the 19th anniversary of a shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. More than 2,500 student groups across the country are expected to leave class for a protest at 10 a.m. local time.

However, Minnesota organizers said they plan to take a broader focus than the national walkouts, which are centered on school violence. Starting at 1 p.m., the Minnesota rally will call for an end to all gun violence, especially problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, said Minneapolis South High School freshman Isra Hirsi.

"We want to solve the problems for everyone rather than just a specific group of people. Especially with Parkland — you have a lot of white-dominated communities, whereas there are other communities that face this issue every single day. If nobody speaks out for them, then we'll never get their issues solved," Hirsi said.

Minnesota students raised almost $3,000 to help transport attendees to the Capitol. Organizers expect students from more than 40 schools and from cities including Rochester, Faribault and Cambridge. Hirsi said the focus on schools outside the metro area was intentional.

"There are so many kids from across the state that want to get involved, but they don't necessarily know how to, or they don't have the opportunity to because they live so far away from the Cities," Hirsi said.

Hirsi said rally organizers don't yet have plans to push specific legislation, but organizers do aim to register students to vote and encourage them to turn out in November. "If you don't have young people voting, then you don't have young people's voices being heard. That's how it works here in America," Hirsi said.

Medeiros said state officials should plan to keep hearing from students. "If we continue to see this amount of absolute complacency from our legislators, then we'll keep showing up," she said.

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