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‘Don’t be scared to be who you are’

Marshall students, community members march in solidarity with LGBTQ youth

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall area residents, including students from Marshall Middle School and Marshall High School, marched down Main Street on Thursday afternoon in support of LGBTQ classmates and allies. Marchers carried signs with messages of support — and even some humor, like one slogan quoting the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song .

MARSHALL — They were marching with handmade signs, brightly colored flags and more. The gathering and the signs were all geared toward a shared goal: showing local youth who are part of the LGBTQ+ community that they aren’t alone.

“Don’t be scared to be who you are,” one marcher said after the group had gathered around at the corner of Main Street and East College Drive.

A group of Marshall students organized an after-school walk and gathering in support of LGBTQ+ classmates and community members on Thursday. Members of the Marshall Middle School Pride Club were joined by family, members of the Marshall High School SPECTRUM Club, members of Buffalo Ridge PFLAG, Southwest Minnesota State University students and other community members.

“They were talking about how they wanted to be more seen and heard,” said MMS Pride Club adviser Ellen Helgerson. The idea for a walk after school worked out for students to get together, she said.

The group gathered outside the Marshall-Lyon County Library and marched down C Street and Main Street to Memorial Park. Students waved rainbow pride flags, cheered when passing cars honked their horns, and gathered to share words of encouragement. Some Marshall students who had gone on to attend MHS or SMSU said they wanted to let the middle schoolers know they were there for them.

“I was proud of everyone who came here,” said James Lor, the president of the MHS SPECTRUM Club. Lor and other marchers said it was good to see people turn out to support LGBTQ+ youth. “I’m so glad this could happen, even in the tiny town of Marshall.”

Parents and community members at the march also said they wanted to show kids they cared. Emma Russ said she was there for her children Willow, 13, and Brennan, 8.

“I wanted to make sure they and their friends are supported,” she said.

Pastor Anne Veldhuisen told students gathered at the park to remember they were loved and supported for who they were.

Thursday’s walk came after controversy over a rainbow LGBT pride flag displayed at Marshall Middle School resurfaced in the form of a lawsuit against the school district. A display of flags, including U.S. and international flags and a rainbow flag representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, was put up in the middle school cafeteria in January 2020.

A civil complaint filed in Minnesota District Court in April alleged the school district violated the First Amendment rights of a middle school student who petitioned to take down the rainbow flag. The lawsuit also alleged the school district’s policies on flag displays weren’t “viewpoint neutral.”

As of Thursday, court records showed the school district hasn’t yet filed a response to the lawsuit. The group suing Marshall Public Schools, Marshall Concerned Citizens, is seeking a jury trial.

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