Wisconsin's 50 Miles More Activists Think They Had A Part In Paul Ryan's Retirement

The day after an estimated 850,000 people attended the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., Katie Eder and Alemitu Caldart joined about 40 other teenagers on a 50-mile, four-day trek to Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Students marching with the 50 Miles More campaign demanded that the Republican Speaker of the House take action to stop gun violence — and they believe Ryan’s announced retirement is proof conservative politicians are scared to face voters’ calls for gun reform.

“I think that our march was that last straw. It was that last thing to say that his beliefs were no longer the beliefs of the majority of [Wisconsinites],” Katie, an 18-year-old senior at Shorewood High School in Shorewood, Wisconsin, told Teen Vogue. She added that she believes that “it is not a coincidence that he announced that he was going to retire two weeks after our march ended and a little bit over two weeks after March for Our Lives ended.”

“I think that although we aren’t the sole reason why he decided not to do it again, I think we had a big impact,” Alemitu added. “And not just 50 Miles More — all the movements around the country. We all did a lot to have our voices heard, and he made the decision not to run again.”

Ryan said in a Wednesday, April 11, press conference that he wouldn’t seek re-election in November in order to spend more time with his family. Katie and Alemitu know their vow to vote Ryan out of office if he didn’t support gun reform wasn’t the only reason for the congressman’s early retirement, but they also believe it made his re-election prospects look less promising.

The Wisconsin activists have been encouraging young people in the other 49 states to march 50 miles more for gun control and similarly single out a representative from their state who doesn’t support a ban on military-style assault weapons and universal background checks. Their new initiative, #50More in #50States, will provide a toolkit to help other activists organize a four-day march just like theirs.

The toolkit aims to walk other young activists through the process of planning a route, finding local high schools to sleep in along the way, and ensuring there’s food for everyone. It will soon be available for anyone who’s thinking about planning a march, and interested activists can already fill out a quick form on the 50 Miles More website to get guidance from the experienced marchers.

“Walking 50 miles sounds very daunting — and it is hard — but it also is going to change your life,” Katie said. “If nothing else, I believe that every young person should want to march because you’ll make lifelong friends and be empowered beyond belief.”

For those who aren’t able to march 50 miles, Katie said there are still ways to get involved. Students with different abilities joined the Wisconsin march for short stretches and assisted with logistics. They also set up a self-care station at each high school to help marchers decompress after each 13-mile hike, which Katie described as “more important than we could have imagined.”

Marching 50 miles is certainly a big gesture. But the Wisconsin activists also know mobilizing young people to vote in November is more likely to have a long-lasting impact on national politics. When Katie turned 18 in October, she was excited to finally register to vote but quickly realized she had no idea how. “Because people are afraid to ask, they don’t do it,” she said.

In fact, only about 50% of Americans between 18 and 29 voted in the 2016 election, according to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. The process of registering to vote isn’t something many teenagers are taught in school. Because voter registration can vary depending on where a person lives, it can be tricky to figure out how to get started or to know if those Google search results are legit. So Katie and Alemitu are working to figure out how to better educate their peers about how to sign up, as well as get them excited to do so.

Although Alemitu is only 15 and won’t be eligible in the midterm election, she still wants to help 18-year-olds get to the polls this year. “It’s important that we’re reaching out to other young people, because as young people we have such a big say in the things that happen because they happen to us,” the Shorewood freshman said.

The 50 Miles More organizers initially drew inspiration from the civil rights movement, as the swell of activism in the 1960s was led in part by young people, according to documentation from the Library of Congress. They want the gun control movement to involve continuous action aimed at keeping the nation’s attention on the issue and forcing politicians to strengthen gun restrictions.

The national March for Our Lives and the Wisconsin 50 Miles More march may have stemmed from the Parkland, Florida, school shooting where 17 people were killed, but 86 teenagers were killed by gun violence in the U.S. in the 50 days following the February 14 shooting, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“This is an issue that affects every single one of us,” Katie said. “Young people are being heard, whether or not politicians want to directly admit that or not, the truth is we are being heard.”

Katie and Alemitu want teenagers across the country to know that it only takes one person to make a change. And for anyone who’s nervous to plan a march in their state, the #50More in #50States resources are there to help.

“When I started this, I was definitely nervous to get involved,” Alemitu said. “I think young people who are afraid to start being involved [should] just do it.”

Related:Wisconsin Students Marched 50 Miles More to Paul Ryan’s Hometown for Gun Reform

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Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/smart-living/wisconsins-50-miles-more-activists-think-they-had-a-part-in-paul-ryans-retirement/ar-AAvXj9K

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