Several hundred students marched from Southwest Minneapolis to City Hall on Wednesday to protest gun violence in schools, a week after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Florida.
Scores of students met around 12:30 p.m. at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in the Kingfield neighborhood and walked approximately 3 1/2 miles to City Hall. They joined up with other students outside City Hall around 2:15 p.m.
The march and rally came a week after a former student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students from the school lobbied for stricter gun laws Wednesday at the Florida statehouse, while students across the country walked out of class to protest gun violence.
“Students shouldn’t have to go to school feeling unsafe or feeling that there could be a school shooting,” Washburn High School ninth-grader Sonia Svedahl said.
Added ninth-grader Julianna Harritt: “People shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to school. It should be a safe space, and they shouldn’t have to fear for their lives.”
Students chanted phrases such as “What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!” as they walked up Nicollet and First avenues, escorted by Minneapolis police officers. They cheered when onlookers came out onto balconies or onto driveways to wave.
Rhea Strom, a senior at Southwest High School, said the group behind the march, called students4revolution, had started the day before.
“We were tired of just sitting and waiting for something to happen but not actually going out and doing something,” she said.
Mayor Jacob Frey addressed the students outside of City Hall, telling them: “we have your back.”
“This is a nationwide movement, and it’s young people, it is students that are leading the way,” he said. “The (National Rifle Association) is going to be shaking in their boots, cause you all are the gun lobby’s absolute worst nightmare.”
Minneapolis Public Schools released a statement on Wednesday afternoon that said in part that “it’s time for our country to have a real conversation about how to move forward to protect our students and teachers.”
The district’s statement encouraged families to have conversations with their students about their expectations and participation in non-school sponsored activities, including walkouts. But it said the best way for the district to ensure student safety is to know students’ whereabouts, which isn’t possible once they leave school grounds.
“The Superintendent’s senior leadership team will be meeting this week to discuss further considerations for national walkouts planned in March and April. We will share more information as these conversations continue,” the statement said.