Passionate students bring March for Our Lives to Tacoma

Student organizers rally more than 1,300 people to the Hilltop neighborhood to join in the nationwide March for Our Lives movement on March 24. Photo by Andrew Fickes

When Nate Minor, a 14-year-old 8th-grader at Truman Middle School in Tacoma, first heard of the school massacre in Parkland, he knew something had to be done to end gun violence.

When he read a local call for action from Tacoma residents on Facebook that a march should be organized to coincide with the nationwide March for Our Lives movement set for March 24, Minor felt strongly to step forward, be that leader, and make the march a reality.

“There are so many bad things happening in the world,” said Minor, who is the ASB vice president at Truman and secretary of the school’s Builders Club, a student-led community service organization. “You have to stop and make a change.”

Thousands of people gathered at Peoples Park and nearby the Tacoma branch of The Evergreen State College on Saturday to protest gun violence, particularly in schools. the rally was a local effort of the national March For Our Lives movement that saw more than 800 rallies around the United States, including the largest rally in the nation’s capital in recent memory. Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

On Feb. 25, Minor started a March for Our Lives Tacoma Facebook page. And on Feb. 28, at Wheelock Library, he rallied students from schools all across Tacoma Public Schools, and outside the district, as well as concerned parents, community members, and student representatives of the University of Puget Sound. In total, more than 40 attended that first meeting. Minor organized the leadership team into committees and designated student liaisons for middle school (Minor), high school (Anna Nguyen), and college (Claire Weckl), respectively.

“(Nate) is the type of kid that thinks about what he can do to make a difference, rather than complain about things,” said Minor’s mother Louisa Erickson. “It’s been so good for him and the other kids. All the kids have been great leaders. But they needed someone to step forward and create a structure and keep it all moving and that was Nate’s role.”

Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

After several weeks of student-led communication efforts that included social media bursts, letters sent out to school principals, and press releases delivered to media outlets, more than 1,300 people, from young children up to adults, attended the march on March 24 in People’s Park in the Hilltop neighborhood starting at 10 a.m. Student speakers spoke from their heart about the need to end gun violence in schools and communities, and demanding that their lives and safety become a priority.

At 11 a.m. the throng of people, many carrying signs with anti-gun, anti-violence, anti-NRA language, marched a 1.4 mile stretch down South 9th Street, down Sprague Avenue, then Sixth Avenue, and then back down M.L.K. Jr Way to the park. Approximately 15 Tacoma police officers managed the cordoned-off streets.

Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

Minutes before the noon hour, people gathered back and Minor and his group of blossoming community organizers made a final call to action. They chanted: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has to go!” and “Lives over guns!”

U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer, who represents Washington’s 6th District, attended the march and was impressed by the maturity of the student organizers.

“I am really impressed with the young people that put this together,” Kilmer said. “We see a lot more courage among our kids than we see among some of those in Congress.”

Mei-Yun Loya, a senior at Stadium High School who plans to study global studies and politics in the fall at Pacific Lutheran University, spearheaded the community outreach to promote the Saturday march.

“It was amazing and inspirational being part of this,” Loya said. “It brought me to tears hearing little kids repeating our chants, wanting to keep the march alive.”

Minor said more than $2,000 was raised by the group from a Go Fund Me page and also a March 21 fundraiser at Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante. Lydia Spencer, a freshman at Stadium High School, served as the finance director for the group and directed the fundraising efforts.

Minor said the group plans to decide what to do with the leftover funds, whether to donate them to a local nonprofit or allocate them for future events.

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