Decatur Citizens March for Our Lives

Athena Pajer

Wind and hail could not stop over a hundred citizens of the Decatur from marching for peace.

At 1 o’ clock on March 24, 2018, Millikin faculty members and children alike gathered in front of Decatur’s Civic Center, beneath the cover of the doorway, before starting on their march to speak-out against gun violence.

“I think the turn-out it great, considering what the weather was,” Dr. James Rauff, a mathematics professor and one of the several Millikin faculty members present at the march, said. “I think I’m here because I’m really getting tired of kids being shot up in schools and I think that the gun laws we have in this country are ridiculously ‘lax’ and that it’s really time we do something about it, stop pretending and hiding behind the second amendment—particularly the first part of it.”

Halfway through the march from the Civic Center to Old King’s Orchard Community Center, a long traffic signal stalled much of the crowd. Then it began to hail.

People driving past the intersection of Green Street and Main saw the crowd of citizens, holding their signs firmly as wind whipped past the buildings, spraying them with icy rain and breaking their umbrellas.

Upon their arrival, members involved with Old King’s Orchard gave marchers a meal ticket and welcomed them to join together as a community.

Alida Graham, the Board President of Old King’s Orchard and a former School Board member, first asked the marchers to participate in a 17-minute moment of silence. The seventeen minutes represented the deaths of the 17 children in the Stoneman Douglass High School shooting but was also meant to honor every victim of gun violence.

After the moment of silence, several members of the community spoke at the event, including Jameson Wheeler, who was representing the “Stop the Violence” project.

“We believe that all violence is sin because it’s an issue of the heart,” Wheeler said. “If we can touch the heart, the issue of violence will be subdued.”

Several other members of the community shared a similar sentiment: that the mindset of violence is the root of these atrocities.

One individual who agreed with this notion is Miley Palmer, an outspoken member of the Decatur Community. He took the stage, bearing a button showing a portrait of his granddaughter.

Palmer’s granddaughter was a student at Northern Illinois University when she became a victim of a mass shooting that killed her and four other students. Palmer shared her heart-breaking story and went on to urge for peace.

“We’re not here against the second amendment, we’re here against violence,” Palmer said. In his speech, he explained that children grow up in an age surrounded by violent imagery, thus perpetuating the idea that violence is acceptable. “We need to create a culture of peace.” Palmer said later in his speech.

Two Decatur Public High School students from MacArthur High School and Eisenhower High School spread messages of peace instead of anger, claiming that the climates of the high schools are becoming more accepting of everyone, therefore beginning an age of a culture of peace.

Since Decatur’s high schools have recently experienced events involving violence, particularly a large-scale fight at MacArthur High School that broke out during an assembly, it was a powerful and effective moment for students to advocate for peace.

The Decatur citizens showed brilliant dedication in braving the worst conditions to be part of the nationwide “March for Our Lives” day, which marks one of the age’s most historic movements. Their voices, unified, are sure to make history.