Area residents marched in Winona as part of the March for Our Lives national event.
by BEN MCLEOD
On Saturday, March 24, hundreds of Winonans met at the Winona Senior High School and marched to draw attention to gun violence in American schools. Buses arrived carrying local marchers who had travelled to the statewide protest at the Minnesota Capitol. Winonans marched east on Sarnia Street to the bandshell in Lake Park. At the bandshell they were met by hundreds more, who had been listening to local parent Jerry Windley-Daoust read aloud the names of all those killed by school shootings since 1999. At the conclusion of the reading, Windley-Daoust pointed out that they were only naming the fatalities. If he had read the names of everyone injured in school shootings in the same time period, they would have needed much more time, he said.
Winona Senior High School junior Tova Strange spoke to the crowd on Saturday. And while some speakers expressed anger, many tried to focus on a message of cooperation. "This is such an important time for us as community members to stand together despite our differences," said Strange. "People debate on the news and in Facebook comments until suddenly everyone forgets about the issue. Then none of us do anything about it."
Windley-Daoust said that he decided to get involved when his own children started to describe to him the active shooter training they were receiving in school. "I mean, we're talking about kids practicing hiding and being perfectly silent, or throwing objects at an intruder," he said, "or literally moving heavy furniture in front of a door to barricade it. It's just not ok that our kids are now spending real time at school practicing how to avoid being hunted down and killed." He continued, "You know that if people who are on the other side of this issue are our neighbors, not our enemies, and that if we really want to make America a safer place for the next generation, we're going to have to have difficult but respectful conversations. I mean, right now it's way easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver's license," he said.
Tova Strange said, "This cannot be where the conversation ends, but where it begins," she insisted. "We, as students and community members, have a responsibility to take action, to ask our government how many people have to die for something to change?"
No counter-protesters were evident. The crowd was made up of adults and children, grandparents and college students. Four police reservists volunteered their time to supervise the event.