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Wisconsinites Join Marches Across State, Nation Seeking Gun Reform

Thousands Participate In Madison, Milwaukee

Marylee Williams/WPR

They called for gun reform. They chanted. They marched. And they took a selfie.

James Madison Memorial High School junior Stephanie Trask asked the thousands of people at the state Capitol in Madison on Saturday to hold up their signs for the picture.

“But since we are teenagers, we have to take a selfie,” Trask joked.

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Trask was one of the organizers of Madison’s March For Our Lives, which was one of 14 marches or rallies happening across Wisconsin on Saturday. Marches were set to happen in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Stevens Point, Appleton, Janesville, Fort Atkinson, Ashland, Ephraim, Elkhart Lake, West Bend and Minocqua.

Wisconsin’s events corresponds with ones nationwide that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets calling for legislation to end gun violence. The main March For Our Lives was in Washington, D.C.

Madison’s event started at Library Mall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus. Participants marched up State Street to the Capitol, where students, teachers, and politicians spoke about the need for gun reform. The Madison Police Department estimate about 2,500 participated on Saturday.

Trask was the first speaker at Madison’s event. She called on adults to stand up and take action for students who can’t vote yet.

“You may say that I’m just a child, and I do not fully understand my government,” Trask said. “You are correct. I am just a child and I want nothing more than to be hopelessly consumed in my March Madness bracket, not marching for my life. I want to be worrying about the exam results, not worrying if the test will be delayed due to a school safety threat.”

These marches across the country are the latest in a series of protest, like the school walkouts on March 14, calling for stricter gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month in Parkland, Florida.

Madison protesters gathered at state Capitol. Marylee Williams/WPR

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., spoke at Madison’s March For Our Lives. They both condemned the National Rifle Association and spoke about how students shouldn’t go to school scared for the lives.

“The NRA is not the family in Wisconsin that goes out hunting every fall as a family tradition, and the NRA isn’t the person who lives alone in a tough neighborhood and they want a firearm for personal protection,” Pocan said. “The NRA is a bunch of gun manufacturers who wan to sell more products so they can take more vacations and have bigger garages than their neighbors.”

The speakers called for gun reform. Jack Larsen, a University of Wisconsin-Madison freshman and organizer, said they want a ban of bump stocks and assault-style weapons, like AR-15s. They also demanded universal background checks for all firearm purchases.

Milwaukee’s march also drew thousands of people. Organizers called for similar legislative reforms. The Milwaukee Police Department said before the march that they estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people would be present.

Bria Smith, a Franklin High School junior, spoke at Red Arrow Park, where the Milwaukee march ended. Gun violence in Milwaukee, Smith said, disproportionately impacts the black community. When she asked the audience if they were tired of the violence, they responded yes.

Milwaukee protesters. Ximena Conde/WPR

“For years, the black community has been shouting for legislation to move and press for these laws and have stricter gun control, but we don’t have the media coverage,” Smith said after the rally. “We don’t have the support of all these different people to give us a voice ’cause we’re silenced and repressed into our impoverished areas.”

Joya Headley also spoke at Red Arrow Park. A junior at Milwaukee School of Languages, Headley said she wanted to push for intersectionality.

“The current gun reform movement has been really exclusive to acknowledging how many black and brown youth die from gun violence every day,” Headley said.

She added that she hopes just as many people come out to Black Lives Matter protests to show support.

Xiemna Conde contributed to this report.

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