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Thousands Turn Out For Eugene's March For Our Lives Event

Saturday, an estimated 5,000 people gathered at Eugene’s federal courthouse as part of the global “March for Our Lives” event. KLCC’s Brian Bull has this recap.

"Some teachers died for kids...took bullets meant for kids..." 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
The Raging Grannies sing a darkly satirical song about the gun control debate.

Many adults came, including the Raging Grannies…who sang a darkly satirical song about school shootings and the gun control debate…

"All those live shooter drills, yet many still were killed..."

Yet the organizational leadership largely came from the students themselves, including Cadence Rose, from the Academy of Arts and Academics. She watched the courthouse plaza fill out with supporters, well before the event got started.

“Oh my god, it’s amazing," she said, looking at the sprawling crowds.

"We could not have hoped for anything better, this is crazy, there are more people coming in...this is so cool.”

Rose and other student leaders emphasized the debate wasn’t partisan, even as anti-NRA and anti-Trump signs emerged from the crowd.  Jonah Misner is a senior at Churchill High. He thinks the movement towards safer schools has made unprecedented strides for not challenging people’s 2nd Amendment Rights.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Part of the crowd estimated by Eugene Police to be around 5000 today.

“The point is to not take guns away, it’s just to make it so that we don’t have to worry about being shot in our schools anymore," Misner tells KLCC. 

"By having proper gun restrictions to keep people who do not deserve to be having assault rifles from obtaining them.”

There were hecklers – both in the crowd and in passing traffic – who yelled pro-NRA or gun rights slogans. Another student leader, Maya Corral, wasn’t phased. She says now it’s time to work with state lawmakers to get common sense gun laws in place.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Student organizer, Maya Corral, speaking at today's event.

“We need to hold our Administration accountable, and demanding change.”

(BULL: Do you think the administration will listen?)

“I don’t know, I hope so. (laughs) I think it’ll be impossible with all the marches and protests that are happening today, to not listen.” (SURGE OF CHEERS)

Marchers wound through downtown Eugene, accompanied by a brass band and police escort. Organizers say they’ll work to keep their effort alive in the public consciousness, as well as keep up voter drives so elected officials don’t forget, either.

Educators walked alongside students dressed in orange.  One – Beth Clarke – is a teacher’s assistant at Prairie Mountain.  She carried a sign that said “ARM ME WITH BOOKS, NOT BULLETS”.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Beth Clarke, teacher's assistant, with her sign outside Whirled Pies.

As the march wrapped up Saturday, Clarke told KLCC how happy she was to see such a huge turnout

“It’s fabulous.  It’s really energized me today, I was getting sad by the state of affairs," says Clarke. 

"But everybody’s just been in such a great mood.  And even when we got flipped off by some people driving past, we just gave them thumbs up and a huge smile, and continued marching.”

In a recent Gallup poll, nearly three-fourths of teachers surveyed said they don’t want to carry guns in school.  And over half said they support stricter gun laws or bans on specific types of guns.

Student organizer and South Eugene High School freshman Jivan Jot Khalsa says she's delighted with today's event.  During the march through the downtown, she told KLCC weeks of coordination with 15 other local students went into the event.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Thousands near the end of the route in downtown Eugene.

“It’s very inspiring because we’ve being seeing everybody supporting this, but now we get a visual of to how many people really care," she said. 

"And it’s so encouraging that people, adults, and other people, people in politics, want to hear our voices, and want to hear what we have to say, and will listen to us. It’s just great!”

Khalsa says now it’s time to work with state representatives on gun laws, and school safety.

An estimated 3,000-4,000 people marched in Corvallis, and there were other marches in Newport, Roseburg, and other cities across Oregon.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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