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March seeks solutions to gun violence

To enact long-term change.

That’s what’s expected to draw a flood of activists and protesters to Old Town Plaza on Saturday morning.

March for Our Lives, a school safety rally, starting at 10 a.m., will take participants on an approximately 1.5-mile march to Tiguex Park.

Gun violence, schools’ mental health services and legislative regulation discussions are on the agenda for the march, which has attracted interest from more than 1,000 people on Facebook and a list of about 25 speakers. Among those on the list, which is primarily made up of students, is Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

“The kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in schools,” the event description says.

Lead organizers Blair Dixon, 19, and Jonathon Alonzo, 15, said the nonpartisan rally isn’t just about guns.

“We, as students, want to be safe. But to us, safety in schools does not look like metal detectors, zero-tolerance policies, armed teachers, or schools looking like prisons. We don’t want students to be criminalized, because youth of color are most affected by over-policing in schools,” the organizers wrote about the event on social media.

The teens told the Journal they want to spark conversations about how social economics and institutionalized racism play a part in the broader gun control debate.

“To students of color, gun violence looks like suicides and street violence,” Alonzo said.

The organizers said March for Our Lives was planned with a youth-based team, which met several times a week for three weeks leading up to the demonstration, and raised about $16,000 through grants and fundraisers.

Twenty “peacekeepers” for traffic and crowd control have volunteered for the event, along with security at the site, according to the organizers.

After Saturday’s march, the group is also planning a campaign for New Mexico’s next 60-day legislative session, as well as calling for an emergency session this year.

“We plan to send a letter to the governor demanding an emergency legislative session to address gun laws in New Mexico,” Dixon said.

Albuquerque’s event is part of hundreds of March for Our Lives events scheduled to take place across the country Saturday.

The marches were planned after 17 deaths in Parkland, Fla., in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month. Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are among those expected to attend the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., where the main march will take place.

Some local faces also will be among the Washington crowd.

Eight high school students and two staff members from Albuquerque’s Digital Arts and Technology Academy, a charter school, will march in D.C., after raising $10,000 for the trip.

And local photographer Riley Russill, 19, raised more than $700 to get to the nation’s capital to observe and document the march. It will be Russill’s first time photographing a national event.

March for Our Lives participants around the nation are diverse: men and women, children and parents, students and teachers, and Democrats and Republicans.

But the message is unified: Something has to change.

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