April 20, 2018

“March for Our Lives” organizer’s friend shot two weeks into planning

Two weeks into the planning of the St. Louis “March for Our Lives,” Damen Alexander’s childhood best friend was shot and killed in a murder suicide. Alexander’s friend, Kevin Johnson, is one of the 57 gun violence victims in St. Louis this year.

Alexander organized the march with four other students. He said losing Johnson was what “hit the nail in the head.”

“We’re being murdered for no reason,” Alexander said. “Not just in our schools but we see it in our streets, in our community.”

Alexander, a senior at St. Louis University High School, always enjoyed community organization and activism.The march, however, became more than just a march for Alexander after losing Johnson. The number of people who showed up at the march emphasized the importance of the issue.

Morgen Lowe is another student organizer of the march. She said 15,000 people marching around Washington Park in St. Louis shows how many people want to bring change to the current gun laws and regulations.

“It really shows that we’re demanding change and that it has to happen,” Lowe said. “The politicians have no choice but to listen to us.”

People of all ages marched on Saturday morning calling for gun violence prevention. The cold rainy weather did not stop people from chanting their demands. “Show me what democracy looks like,” chanted a middle school boy. The crowd responded “this is what democracy looks like.”

Two people were shot and killed in St. Louis on that same Saturday. Alexander believes the solution to the

gun violence problem is for people to go out and vote. His generation is the largest voting population since the baby boomers. He said his classmates will be ruling this country one day. The march was a call for action to Alexander; to encourage people to vote the right representatives into office.

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Webster University political science student Megan Price said it is long past the time for people to take policy action toward the gun violence epidemic. She said the issue is now a voting issue.

“Background checks, licenses and training are policy actions that are constitutional and should be implemented immediately and any politician that refuses to recognize that does not deserve my vote and does not represent me,” Price said.

The student organizers of the march needed the help of adults for legal assistance. The organization Moms Demand Action provided this legal support. Members of the non-profit signed a permit with the National Park Services for the rally at the end of the march. Jessica Risenhoover is a volunteer with Moms Demand Action. She said she is proud of the students for all the hard work they put into this. She said it proves how it is a generation of leaders and organizers.

“The students really are the primary organizers of all the work,” Risenhoover said.

Risenhoover and Alexander said the march is not the end of the work. There will be a student walkout on April 20. There will be a Wear Orange event for gun violence awareness in June.

Alexander believes his generation has the power to right the wrongs of the country. He said they are calling representatives and holding them accountable.

“I think that’s something that’s really powerful,” Alexander said. “We are the grassroot organizers. We are the activists. We are ready to change this world.”

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