A “March For Our Lives” event will take place at the Longview Civic Circle March 24 to protest gun violence, and organizers acknowledge the event is already causing some tension with gun owners.
Marchers will stay on the sidewalk, so they don’t need a permit. They will meet at noon and march for one to two hours, depending on how many people join the effort, said organizer Sarah East, 29.
The event is one of an estimated 700 planned across the nation that day in connection with the Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives organized by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died in a Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“It’s basically just a peaceful rally saying that we’re against gun violence,” East said.
East said that she’s received positive and negative comments on the march. One man, she said, donated $100 to help pay for signs.
East also noted that gun rights activists have said online that they will attend the event in support of their right to bear arms. East said she believes “showing up and carrying your rifle isn’t the best response,” but people are welcome to do so. She stressed that the march will protest gun violence, not guns.
Strangers have called her to express support but would not attend because they are scared, she said. “This is exactly what I’m talking about, and this is why I’m going,” East said.
Longview police are aware of the march, said Sgt. Chris Blanchard.
“The patrol shift supervisor has the information and can assign patrol officers as necessary to handle issues that may arise during the event,” he said. Blanchard added that police are not aware of any threats against the event but continue to monitor social media and other sources.
“It is the policy of this department not to unreasonably interfere with, harass, intimidate or discriminate against persons engaged in the lawful exercise of their rights, while also preserving the peace, protecting life and preventing the destruction of property,” Blanchard said in a written statement.
He noted that the policy applies equally to march participants and others who might attend, such as event protesters.
East has spread the word not only online, but in local schools as well. She asked the Longview and Kelso school districts for permission to display posters and distribute flyers about the march.
In Kelso, Administrative Assistant Beth Grambo last week allowed flyers to be distributed in teacher staff rooms. Materials on the march will not be distributed to students or posted on bulletin boards in the schools.
The Longview district approved East’s posters in all schools, though they must be posted on the district’s few non-academic bulletin boards. Posters or flyers will not be handed out to students or sent home to parents.
Superintendent Dan Zorn said at Monday night’s school board meeting that the posters passed through the usual district process and were deemed appropriate.
“We have a burden to be sure that unless there is a compelling reason not to provide that information, then we need to provide that information,” he said
He stressed that the March 24 event is not sponsored or endorsed by the district. On the other hand, “It’s important to recognize that our students have First Amendment rights just like anyone else does,” Zorn said.
Both districts have policies prohibiting the distribution of materials that are obscene, libelous or that feature hate language against a particular race, religion, sex, gender identity, etc. Schools cannot distribute materials that promote commercial enterprises, promote the violation of laws or proselytize or disparage religious beliefs.
East said she does not have plans to distribute materials to other school districts.