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Students gear up to 'March for Our Lives' in Seattle

University Prep students attend a walkout rally on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at Red Square on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
University Prep students attend a walkout rally on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, at Red Square on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.

Student organizers say Saturday’s March For Our Lives rally in Seattle will emphasize voter registration and concrete steps young people can take to advocate against gun violence.

Rainier Beach High School student Gregory Miles Pleasant will be one of the speakers onstage. He’s a member of the group Youth 4 Peace. But he said his jump into the spotlight has been sudden and a bit surreal.

“Honestly a couple months ago I wasn’t into all of this,” Pleasant said. “I was on the ground, walking through the streets. This is my life, this isn’t something that I’m researching.”

Pleasant said the growth of this student-led movement makes him feel hopeful. He just wants people to recognize that many people have been dealing with gun violence for years, and they need solutions that go beyond the school building.

“The Parkland shooting was a tragedy, but tragedies like that — and tragedies not just in school but outside of school — have been happening in my neighborhood and neighborhoods like that for decades,” he said. “So all this attention, it’s just a long time coming.”

The organizers are firming up their list of youth speakers and getting final details in place for the rallies and march, which will occur with other marches nationwide to raise awareness about school safety and gun violence.  This event is a follow-up to thestudent walkouts on March 14.

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In Seattle, marchers will gather at Cal Anderson park on Capitol Hill, then make their way to a rally at Seattle Center. Ingraham High School senior Catherine Zhu said that just as with the school walkout the focus is on voices of young people.

“Both events are really strong expressions of the fact that students are really fed up with what’s going on and we’re ready to have a moment of activism that people cannot look away from,” Zhu said.

According to a press release, Tahoma High School student Rhiannon Rasaretnam and Ballard High School student Emilia Allard are leadingthe organizing effort, which also includes students from public and private schools in Gig Harbor, Des Moines, South Seattle and other communities.

Zhu said she attended the first student meeting for volunteers in Seattle after the Parkland shooting. For this march she’s handling logistics and communication with other team leaders.

Organizers said the Seattle event will call for a ban on military-style weapons and for ensuring “school safety without the use of firearms.” Zhu said the event is meant to help students who are interested but not sure of their next step. 

“I would say we are looking towards concrete political change,” she said. There will be opportunities for voter registration once people reach Seattle Center.

Zhu said in choosing Saturday’s speakers, organizers are trying to strike a balance between young people and elected officials who have similar priorities on gun laws.

“We’re definitely trying to cater to both sides,” she said. “We want to recognize that there is youth power, youth voice and that there are many impacted youth. But also the fact that a lot of politicians have been very supportive and they’ve been doing great legislative work for a very long time related to gun control.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Senator Maria Cantwell and Governor Jay Inslee are scheduled to speak, and the singer Brandi Carlile will perform.

Year started with KUOW: 2005