Thousands of people are expected to fill the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo on Saturday for the March for Our Lives against gun violence.
The event, in coordination with the march in Washington, D.C., begins at 2 p.m. with a rally at Mitchell Park. The march will begin at 3 p.m. on a 1-mile route up Osos Street and around the downtown core. Activities are expected to conclude at 5 p.m.
About 7,000 people are expected to attend the rally, which was organized by Women's March San Luis Obispo, coordinators say.
“We need to bring attention to the issue of mass shootings in the U.S. and on school campuses," said Dawn Addis, an event coordinator. "We urge elected officials to come together to find bipartisan solutions that respect the second amendment and protect the lives of kids in our schools.
Addis said that she believes the rally, in coordination with national rallies and national activism inspired by the Parkland, Fla. mass shooting, will inspire change at local, state and national levels.
"Many options are on the table and there could be different solutions in different communities," Addis said. "Our voices will be heard by officials on local school boards to city, county, state, congressional and Senate leaders. At every level, decisions are being made that affect this issue."
The event will include speeches, songs and spoken word poetry, featuring 11 local high school students from Nipomo to Paso Robles. They will also lead the march by carrying a 20-foot banner.
"Why has it taken this long to create substantial change?" said Morro Bay High School sophomore Alexa Ford, one of the student presenters. "A mass shooting could happen at our school, but why should it be possible that it happens in our school?"
Ford said that she personally advocates for background checks and mental health checks when guns are sold, as well as bans on assault weapons and improvements to the mental health treatment system.
But the march will be open to bipartisan ideas from throughout the community, and the event aims to "listen to all perspectives," Ford said.
The event also will include voter registrations and pre-registrations for those who are under 18, qualifying them to vote when they turn 18.
"It's too bad 17 people had to lose their lives, but I believe the Parkland incident has brought unity to this topic," said Terry Parry, an event coordinator. "No matter how you voted, everyone agrees that nobody wants to send their kid to school and come home with a dead body."
In preparation for the march, the city of San Luis Obispo has announced several downtown street closures and will be adding extra patrol officers, with standby help from other area public safety agencies.
Downtown street closures will be in effect beginning at 11:30 a.m. until the march ends, with the exception of Osos, Pismo, and Buchon streets immediately surrounding Mitchell Park, which will stay closed until 6 p.m., or as soon as possible after the streets are clear.
The following streets will be no-parking, tow-away zones starting at 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., or be allowed for parking as soon as possible.
- Higuera from Osos to Nipomo
- Marsh from Nipomo to Santa Rosa
- Garden, Morro and Chorro between Higuera and Marsh
- Osos from Monterey to Buchon
- Pismo between Santa Rosa and Osos
- Buchon between Santa Rosa and Osos
"The city is committed to ensuring that the March for Our Lives Event is safe, orderly and peaceful for all participants and those impacted," city officials said in a statement. "With many participants expected and because the march route goes through residential and commercial areas, there will be an unavoidable impact on neighbors, businesses and anyone planning to visit our downtown on Saturday."
The statement added: "City staff is working hard to minimize inconveniences, but above all else, we want to ensure that everyone is respected and safe when we look back after the event."
The public should plan on using Nipomo, Palm and Santa Rosa as primary detours around the event, according to the city.
“We have a lot of experience and training to assist to make this a safe and peaceful event, especially managing crowds of this size," said San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell. "What we know is that success is most assured when everyone involved — from marchers to neighbors to folks who are just watching — respect everyone’s rights and personally commit to making this a successful event.”