1,100 students march to Capitol for rally against gun violence

Talking with young children about gun violence can be difficult, but Wednesday outside the state Capitol in St. Paul Minnesota the topic was addressed head on. 

Nationwide 180 Freedom Schools across the country in 87 cities took part in awareness events. In St. Paul, more than a thousand students participated in a march from the St. Paul Cathedral to the state Capitol. 

“This event is about gun violence and how children are dying and we don’t want that,” said Jayla Samuels, an 11-year-old. 

Everyone on the giant field trip was part of the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota Freedom Schools. It’s a six-week free summer literacy program for students from kindergarten through high school. 

“Here at the Capitol we spend energy on a lot of things, but not a lot on lifting up the needs of kids,” said Representative Dave Pinto (DFL - St. Paul).

A handful of lawmakers joined students on the Capitol lawn to tell the kids they are listening. In the past, this national day of social action has drawn attention to voting rights and various topics. This year the focus was guns. 

“We are not trying to take any guns away from anybody,” said Emmanuel Donaby, director of STEM for Freedom Schools. “We are trying to make sure there are stricter laws to protect the youth.”

Of the more than 1,100 children participating, one parent approached our camera upset she didn't know what the march was about and decided to pull her nine-year-old daughter away.

“She had no idea what she was marching for,” said Kami O’Hara, a parent. “She didn’t know. She knew it was social awareness, but not about guns. I think me and her dad need to sit down and teach about guns.”

“At every parent empowerment meeting that happens once a week, we inform parents on field trips,” said Donaby.

Plans for this event started at the beginning of summer. While this maybe a first for many young protesters, organizers hope it won't be their last. 

“I’m grateful just to be part of this experience and see the children are learning how to advocate through themselves in a positive way,” said Donaby.