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Willmar says 'enough is enough' as 200 join March For Our Lives

A variety of signs were available for marchers at Saturday's March For Our Lives event in Willmar. Many came with their homemade signs, too.Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune1 / 8
Marchers set off from downtown Willmar on the March For Our Lives Saturday morning in Willmar. The group walked down First Street to Willmar Avenue and returned to the downtown area. Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune2 / 8
Marchers set off from downtown Willmar on the March For Our Lives Saturday morning in Willmar. The group walked down First Street to Willmar Avenue and returned to the downtown area. Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune3 / 8
Lydia Meier, a Willmar Senior High student and an organizer of the March For Our Lives, welcomes a group of about 200 people to the march Saturday morning in Willmar. They were among more than 800 marches across the globe seeking an end to gun violence in schools.Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune4 / 8
The long line of marchers nears the intersection of First Street and Willmar Avenue, the halfway point in the March For Our Lives Saturday in Willmar. Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune5 / 8
Jennifer Lindquist, a teacher in Willmar, speaks Saturday about her opposition to placing guns in classrooms when so many other resources are needed. Lindquist joined the March For Our Lives Saturday in Willmar. Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune6 / 8
Annie Schaefbauer, a Willmar Senior High senior and a march organizer, speaks to the group Saturday before the March For Our Lives in Willmar begins.Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune7 / 8
In a peaceful counterprotest to the March For Our Lives, Tim Woltjer of Willmar carries a Gadsden flag. He answered questions and explained his views on gun rights to other marchers and even joined in some chants with which he could agree. Linda Vanderwerf / Tribune8 / 8

WILLMAR — Chants of "Enough is Enough" echoed on South First Street Saturday morning when about 200 people participated in the Willmar version of the March For Our Lives.

Willmar's march was one of more than 800 similar marches planned around the globe calling for an end to school violence and mass shootings in the United States. The march was organized by Willmar Senior High School students with involvement from DREAM Technical Academy and some logistical assistance from community organizations League of Women Voters and Isaiah.

The march was organized after a former student with a semiautomatic rifle killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students from that school have fueled a national movement to end school violence.

Willmar Senior High students participated in a national student walkout on March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Florida killings. Many of the students worked on planning both the walkout and Saturday's march.

The crowd Saturday included a variety of people, more adults than teens. Some were teachers. Some young families with little ones in strollers joined the march, as well as retired people. Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, was there, as was his opponent in November, Democrat Anita Flowe of Willmar.

Many people wore orange, the color adopted by the movement.

Students and teachers were the main speakers to the crowd gathered on Becker Avenue Southwest across from Bethel Lutheran Church in downtown Willmar. After hearing the speakers, the group walked over to First Street and used sidewalks to walk to Willmar Avenue and back.

Participants carried signs that said, "Enough is Enough," "Students Demand Action," and "Never Again." Some brought homemade signs, and pre-printed signs were available on a table.

Voter registration forms were on another table, along with orange postcards to be signed and sent to members of Congress.

Among the speakers was high school student and organizer John Seerden, who said the effort was about more than proposing new gun laws.

"We need to start forming relationships and forming bonds as a way to end this isolated suffering that's happening to certain people who believe they aren't worthwhile enough to be able to be part of the community," he said. "I don't want to talk about the political issues; I want to talk about how we can come together and truly figure out how to solve this problem."

Jennifer Lindquist, a teacher in Willmar, spoke about recent proposals to arm teachers. Schools have many needs, she said. "We need books and science lab equipment, art supplies and technology."

Students need access to affordable mental health care, too, she said, but "one thing I know for sure, we do not need more guns."

She continued, "The truth is a teacher with a gun is no match for these military weapons."

Tim Woltjer of Willmar joined the marchers carrying a Gadsden flag — a coiled rattlesnake and the words "Don't Tread on Me" on a yellow field. The flag was an early flag used in the Revolutionary War. Its meaning has shifted over the years. In recent years it has been used by the Tea Party movement and Second Amendment advocates.

Woltjer said also joined a pro-immigration march in Willmar a year ago. He joined the group in the chant "Thoughts and prayers are not enough."

A woman who identified herself as a National Rifle Association member and gun owner asked why he was joining that chant. "Thoughts and prayers are not enough," he said. "I'm for gun rights. ... I don't know the solution; nobody knows the solution."

As with a year ago, Woltjer joined the march peacefully. "I'm that thorn in everyone's side," he said with a smile. "Everyone's nice; asking me questions. I generally enjoy conversations."

Some of the marchers came from a distance. Amy Wilde, of Dassel, a former Meeker County commissioner, called herself a supporter. "I have four grandchildren in public schools, so I came about school safety. I want my grandchildren to be safe in school."

Katie Lind came from Kandiyohi along with her two young children. "I'm here today to listen directly to the concerns of the students," she said. "I'm willing to listen to whatever ideas will provide protection for our kids."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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