Public Safety

'March for Our Lives' proponents meet in Cedar Rapids as part of U.S. tour

Parkland activists hold NewBo meet and greet, prepare for town hall

Emma Hoover-Grinde (left), a senior at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, hugs Emma González of Parkland, Florida, during the March For Our Lives tour meet and greet at Raygun in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 21, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
Emma Hoover-Grinde (left), a senior at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, hugs Emma González of Parkland, Florida, during the March For Our Lives tour meet and greet at Raygun in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 21, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Several students who survived the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and a registration drive to sign up young voters converged Thursday in a trendy NewBo T-shirt store in the first of two events scheduled in the Corridor on the “March for Our Lives: Road to Change Tour.”

The summer tour across the United States focuses on young voter registration and how to address gun violence by voting.

The event at Raygun was a meet-and-greet, giving attendees time to discuss gun control with members of March for Our Lives. The group was formed by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after 14 students and three staff members were killed in a Feb. 14 shooting at the Florida school and has since grown to include others.

Kobey Lofton, Cameron Kasky, Arieyanna Williams, Jacyln Corin, Matt Deitsch, Ryan Deitsch, Sophie Phillips, Emma Gonzalez, Alfonso Calderon, Chris Matthews and Kyrah Simon — all members of March for Our Lives — were present at Raygun.

The group advocates for stricter gun control measures, including comprehensive background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault rifles.

NextGen Iowa, though not an official event partner, also was at Raygun to help register young voters. NextGen America, whose founder, billionaire Tom Steyer, has been calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, is helping the Parkland students organize events.

“There’s a lot of money in the government from the (National Rifle Association). I have personally have no desire for that to have any place there,” said University of Iowa psychology major Braden Goyke, 21, who learned about the event from NextGen.

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Catherine Diaz, another UI student and a NextGen volunteer, said the first step toward change is exercising the right to vote. She studies global health and said gun violence is a public health issue.

Margaret Player, a 12-year-old from Mount Vernon, won’t be old enough to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, but attended the event because she supports gun control.

“We should feel safe when we go to school, and I don’t like that I’m scared,” Player said.

Kellen Ochs, 17, of Cedar Rapids, won’t be able to vote in the midterms, either, but said it’s important for students to make themselves heard.

Ochs helped organized a Feb. 21 walkout at Washington High School.

Andy Bryant, 17, Cedar Rapids attended the event at Raygun with a group of friends. Bryant said he disagrees with the stricter gun control measures the group is calling for, but supports the tour’s goal of getting young voters registered.

“I think it’s important to get the youth involved in voting, especially since it’s a such a low voter turnout compared to people who are older,” Bryant said.

Although he disagrees with their views, Bryant said he’s glad to participate in the discussion surrounding the issue.

While she also disagrees with March for Our Lives’ view on gun control, Swisher native Gabi Carter, 20, applauds the group and the Parkland students for their education efforts and bravery.

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“I’ve never been involved in a school shooting, I don’t know how traumatic it is. Their views and experiences are much different from mine. Sharing what they truly believe should be the next step and that’s a good thing,” said Carter, who was not at the event but was interviewed separately.

The tour started June 15 in Chicago, followed by events elsewhere in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. There are 17 stops in nine states scheduled for June, with July and August events to be announced.

The tour kicked off in Iowa on Wednesday morning with a stop in Sioux City, and the Thursday Cedar Rapids event was to be followed by a 7.p. town hall at Linn-Mar High School, 3111 N. Tenth St.

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; molly.hunter@thegazette.com

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