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March for Our Lives to be held in Cortez on Saturday

Local student group to join national event
About 120 students of Montezuma-Cortez High School participated in a walkout on March 14 as part of a nationwide movement. Some students chose to participate in a “lie-in” while the names of the victims of the Aztec shooting and the Parkland shooting were read during a moment of silence.

The student division of the Montezuma Alliance for Unity plans to join activists around the country on Saturday in holding a March for Our Lives demonstration.

Montezuma County students, along with others from high schools in the Four Corners area, plan to hold a rally and march at Cortez City Park to call for stricter gun control laws.

Organizer Zoë Culpepper said she and other students plan to speak during the rally about their concerns for U.S. gun laws.

The Cortez event will be held in solidarity with hundreds of similar marches across the U.S. on Saturday.

Culpepper, a sophomore at Dolores High School and the Student Montezuma Alliance for Unity administrator, said she helped form the group in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14. It’s modeled after the Montezuma Alliance for Unity, which formed in response to the divisive 2016 election. This will be Culpepper’s first time organizing a march, although she said she did join the student walkouts that took place around Montezuma County on March 14 to honor the victims of the Florida shooting.

She said she feels it is important, in the wake of recent mass shootings, for her fellow high school students to “have a voice” on gun control.

“Students are never listened to, because people say we don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand,” she said. “We just want to let people know that that’s not the case.”

Like those in many other “March for Our Lives” events, students at the rally will be asking elected officials to push for a ban on bump stocks, devices that allow semiautomatic weapons to fire more rapidly; more comprehensive background checks for gun buyers; and the closing of loopholes that allow people to buy weapons at gun shows and other private venues without screening.

A news release from MAU emphasized the students are asking for gun safety laws “that do not infringe on the rights of Americans to own guns for hunting and protection.”

Culpepper said she and the rest of the 10-member Student MAU committee have invited students from all over the region to participate in the event. She said they expect at least one person to attend from Aztec High School in New Mexico, where two teenagers were fatally shot on Dec. 7 by a 21-year-old disguised as a student.

Glynis Verrazzano, a member of MAU, said the adult organization is providing funds for the event, but is not involved in organizing it.

“It’s for and by the students,” she said. “We are just the backup for them.”

In addition to student speakers, the rally will feature live music from Mike and Sage Rasmussen and Kevin Frazier of the Dolores band Wake Up Laughing.

Culpepper said there will also be a voter registration booth in City Park for those participants who are old enough to vote. Marchers of all ages will meet at the flagpole in City Park at 1 p.m.

If Saturday’s march goes well, Culpepper said she would like to organize more student rallies in the future, possibly addressing other problems that affect them, such as bullying and suicide.

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