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Youth rally focuses on gun violence

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

In February, 17 people died in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In March, thousands in Albuquerque came out for March for Our Lives, a protest and rally that was part of a nationwide movement calling for school safety reform.

Now, in July, local students and Marjory Stoneman Douglas students came together in southeast Albuquerque.

Hundreds came out to Roosevelt Park on Wednesday afternoon for the Road to Change, a nationwide tour to end gun violence hosted by March For Our Lives students.

It was a hot afternoon in Albuquerque, a DJ was playing music and people grabbed plates of food after setting up lawn chairs.

The event was upbeat despite its somber origin.

But Jammal Lemy, a 20-year-old March for Our Lives activist and Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumnus, said the event was intended to be inviting.

“We just want to connect with the people of the different areas of where we are visiting,” he said.

The main goal was to make a big impact on Albuquerque youths, trying to increase political action and voter registration.

And voter registration was included in the event.

Lemy said Road to Change was created to continue a movement against gun violence that spread across the country during March for Our Lives.

“After we had the shooting in our town and after the march, we knew that we couldn’t end the conversation,” he told the Journal. “We knew we had to bring this conversation to their front doors.”

A large group of supporters came out to Roosevelt Park in Albuquerque, NM for the “Road to Change ” tour on Wednesday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

To continue the momentum, the group, which has members ranging from ages 14 to 20, dedicated their summer to the tour.

At Albuquerque’s event, 16-year-old Alfonso Calderon recounted the tragedy that happened on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman.

“I was in my favorite class, theater,” he recalled.

He remembered hearing the fire alarm that was quickly followed by gunshots. And then screams filling the school.

“You never forget the sounds,” he said.

Local March for Our Lives leaders, poets and activists also spoke at the event.

Some of the most prominent faces of the movement, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, were in attendance, but did not take questions from the media.

New Mexico is among more than 20 states the tour is visiting, with Albuquerque being the only local stop, according to the tour website.

Lemy said there were several reasons Albuquerque was chosen, but New Mexico was put on the group’s radar after a meeting with a parent from Aztec High School – where two students were fatally shot late last year.

And the Road to Change organizers wanted to pick cities where they could have the biggest impact.

“We wanted to target districts that the youth turnout could affect elections,” he said.

Lemy said Wednesday’s turnout was more than he anticipated.

Among that crowd was Esabella Myhre, 14, who said she’s now inspired to vote when she is old enough.

And 12-year-old Nathan Best, who said he learned the power young people can have when they band together and organize.

Members of the March for Our Lives group said they aren’t done here. Lemy said several other projects are on the docket and while he couldn’t provide details, he said there will be more pushes to empower youths.

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