Rapid City March for Our Lives Struggles to Sustain Interest

After a fast start, Rapid City’s March for Our Lives chapter has struggled with low turnout and continued interest.

By Nathan Tippmann

A March For Our Lives (MFOL) chapter in Rapid City, South Dakota rings of a paradox: a gun violence prevention and gun control reform organization in a state famous as a hunting and ranching hot spot. Yet this paradox is not the greatest obstacle our local chapter of March for Our Lives faces. What’s reared its head as an even larger problem is attendance, membership, and continued interest. The mission statement of MFOL is, “To harness the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives.” Be that as it may, harnessing the power of the young people I believed were as passionate for this cause as I is a mountain compared to living in a red state.

I can recall the anger in everyone’s hearts two years ago when the March For Our Lives movement took place and soon thereafter became a legitimate organization. I remember the school walkouts and memorials held in our schools and in our town. This fire in everyone’s hearts after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting carried weight in our town and many people came to the Women’s March as well.

Capturing that momentum, Abby Ryan and Ali Weber paved the road for two members from each Central and Stevens High Schools to begin actively operating as a chapter of MFOL. After delegating jobs to each of the four founding members, all that was left to do was to secure a non-profit sponsor, as MFOL itself is a non-profit. This was easily achieved when Megan Weber, Central senior and chapter head, contacted South Dakota’s National Organization for Women. Fiona Anderson, Stevens sophomore and treasurer, managed to get the Rapid City Chapter t-shirts and stickers. With an active social media presence, run by me, a sponsor, merchandise, and meetings run by the chapter’s secretary Shaye Beardsley, a Stevens sophomore, there is a fully functioning, nationally recognized chapter of March For Our Lives in Rapid City.

What has been the result? On the up side, hundreds of people showed up to see Greta Thunberg speak in downtown Rapid City in October. But on the down side, from our first member sign-up at Armadillos Ice Cream Shoppe in September, to a voter registration table in January at the RC Women’s March, or the Cave Collective for a documentary about political prisoner Leonard Peltier, the turnout has been stifling. No matter the event, public accessibility, or social media activity, the Rapid City March for Our Lives chapter struggles to garner attention, interest, membership, and activity. With this, I conclude that Rapid City has strides to make before a movement this progressive will be widely supported, applauded, and participated in.

Photo: March for Our Lives, Ukiah, California by Bob Dass on Flickr