About 75 people rallied Saturday in support of stricter gun control policies as part of the March for Our Lives national event. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

About 75 people rallied Saturday in support of stricter gun control policies as part of the March for Our Lives national event. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

March for Our Lives rallies conducted on Peninsula

About 75 Sequim and Port Angeles residents rallied in downtown Sequim while some 40 people gathered in Forks on Saturday to urge stricter gun policies.

Protesters were following the lead of survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting on Feb. 14, in which 17 people were killed. Marches were organized across the United States, with students from Port Angeles and Port Townsend traveling to the event in Seattle.

In Sequim, the protest was organized by the grassroots group Indivisible Sequim at the four corners of the Sequim Avenue and Washington Street intersection.

In Forks, the rally was organized by Folks for Change. The plan there was to create signs at Concerned Citizens/Sunshine and Rainbows before lining up in front of the Forks Transit Center.

“As we all know, no school is immune to the threat of gun violence,” said Forks rally organizer Berlinda James in an email. “This is no longer a THEM thing……it is a WE thing. I think we can all agree that too many people have died on school campuses to stay silent any longer.”

Sequim student Dylan Jackson, 14, said he went to the Sequim rally with his grandmother, Loretta Vlaardingerbroek, because he wants more “common sense gun control laws,” such as banning assault rifle ownership, enforcing stricter background checks and raising gun ownership to age 21.

Jackson, who was one of more than 100 students who walked out of class on March 14 at Sequim Middle School for the National School Walkout to remember the Parkland victims and urge gun control, said he wrote an essay for his language arts class advocating change. He said that some of his classmates wrote similar essays — both for and against stronger gun control.

“I know one thing for sure, they all want a solution to this problem (of gun violence),” he said.

Laura Fierro and her daughter, Wren Fierro, 15, who participated in the walkout at Sequim High School, held signs against gun violence and advocated a deeper look into prescription drugs on Saturday.

“Psychiatric drugs kids are prescribed are part of the issue, too,” Laura Fierro said. “We need to look deeper into what these kids are being prescribed.”

Ellen and Milton Patrie of Sequim sat on a concrete planter in support of stricter gun control saying they have lived privileged lives and felt a need to be out on Saturday.

“Our generation is supposed to be the Greatest Generation, but we didn’t stop guns. The Boomers and the Millennials didn’t do it, so now the kids of today are out there and we better be out here supporting them and get it done,” Ellen Patrie said.

Katie Rodgers of Port Angeles brought her 18-month-old son, Liam, to the rally saying, “it speaks volumes for a small town to show support for an event like this.

“It’s important that kids are leading the change, which is inspiring and embarrassing at the same time for adults,” she said.

The idea for the Sequim rally began with Mary Benavidez of Sequim phoning friends, which grew into a bigger event through Indivisible Sequim. Joan Cotta, co-chair of Indivisible Sequim, said the local group of more than 300 members is going into its second year.

She said Saturday’s message was to support the students and getting guns out of society.

Cotta and co-chair Claudia Carter said they were happy with the turnout and that about 95 percent of the response from the public was positive.

Drivers either honked or waved in support while a few yelled “NRA,” “I support the Second Amendment,” and “I love my AR-15.”

Sequim teen Nick D’Amico, 16, was the only minor at Saturday’s rally opposed to gun control. He wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and walked to the four corners.

“I had some free time and I wanted to express the First Amendment,” he said. “I’ve been having pleasant, mostly pleasant, conversations with people hearing what they have to say.”

D’Amico said he is a member of Sequim High’s leadership class which helped organize the school’s walkout. He said the class wanted to create an environment for both sides of gun control policies to participate.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Christi Baron, editor of the Forks Forum, contributed to this story.

Folks for Change held a rally in support of Saturday’s nationwide March for Our Lives in Forks. About 40 West End residents gathered at the Forks Transit Center to advocate for school safety and gun laws. (Christi Baron/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Folks for Change held a rally in support of Saturday’s nationwide March for Our Lives in Forks. About 40 West End residents gathered at the Forks Transit Center to advocate for school safety and gun laws. (Christi Baron/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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