What you should know before Saturday’s March for Our Lives; protests planned in Lawrence, Topeka

photo by: Peter Hancock

An estimated 1,000 students from Topeka High School took part in a national walkout Wednesday, March 14, 2018, to protest gun violence and marched three blocks to the Kansas Statehouse where they briefly merged with another rally organized by the Kansas chapter of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

More than 800 March for Our Lives rallies are taking place across the globe Saturday, including a planned sit-in on the steps of the Kansas Capitol in Topeka. Here’s what you need to know about the national movement, local “sister” protests and how to follow the action online.

What is it?

The main March for Our Lives, spearheaded by survivors of last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., will take place in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of thousands of adults and teens expected to attend. Student organizers have also received help from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group, in planning and coordinating the event.

The mission behind these national efforts, according to the March for Our Lives website, is “to demand that a comprehensive and effective (gun control) bill be immediately brought before Congress.”

What’s going on locally?

Hundreds of teens, parents, teachers and other supporters from across Kansas, including students at Lawrence and Free State high schools, are expected to attend a protest outside the Capitol Saturday, slated for 11 a.m. in Topeka. Around 300 people had pledged to attend the event via the “March for Our Lives – Topeka, KS Enough is Enough Rally” Facebook page.

Samantha Inscore, an education major at Emporia State University, is the main organizer behind the Topeka protest. On the event’s Facebook page, Inscore calls for stricter gun laws, greater attention to mental illness, increased security presence in schools, more civilian training for school staff and the end of what she sees as glorification of shootings in “the media.”

Another March for Our Lives event, hosted by the Kansas chapter of gun-control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Lawrence’s South Park. Protesters will rally around the South Park gazebo, near 12th and Massachusetts streets, before marching through downtown Lawrence.

According to the “Lawrence March for Our Lives” Facebook page, student leaders and other community members will speak for about 30 to 45 minutes starting at 10 a.m., followed by the march down Massachusetts Street to Sixth Street and back to South Park again.

The League of Women Voters will also be on hand with a voter registration table.

It’s unclear so far if any counterprotests are being planned here in Lawrence or in Topeka, though the “Lawrence March for Our Lives” Facebook page recommends “not engaging in debate” should marchers encounter “people who disagree with our message.”

“Arguing is not likely to be productive in this setting,” the Facebook page said.

How to follow the action:

Protesters are encouraged to use hashtags #EnoughIsEnough, #NeverAgain and #ShameOnYou in social media updates from March for Our Lives events across the country. You can also follow the action via the official @EnoughMovement Twitter and @enoughisenoughprotest Instagram account.

The Journal-World will also be covering protests in both Topeka and Lawrence.

What happens next?

On April 20, students from both LHS and Free State will take part in the National High School Walkout movement. The plan calls for high school students across the country to walk out of classes on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine, Colo., high school shooting, from 10 a.m. local time until the end of the school day. Students are encouraged to stand together in silence for 17 minutes, honoring the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting, before participating in an open mic.

In Lawrence, students will walk out at 10 a.m. and travel to South Park, where organizers are planning a community event with food, music, speakers and more gun-control activism.

Chisato Kimura, an LHS senior helping coordinate the April event, said she expects around 100 classmates to attend Saturday’s protests in Topeka and Lawrence.

Around 400 LHS students participated in a national walkout earlier this month, joining other teens around the country to honor Parkland shooting victims and to protest gun violence. Around 100 students participated in a similar walkout that morning at Free State.