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300 turn out to march for science on Earth Day

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An estimated 300 people walk a route taking them from Gregory Park to Washington Street in Brainerd as a part of the Science March Brainerd Lakes Saturday. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video2 / 4
An estimated 300 people walk along Washington Street in Brainerd as a part of the Science March Brainerd Lakes Saturday. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video3 / 4
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., talks to the crowd at Gregory Park Saturday before the Science March Brainerd Lakes. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video4 / 4

An estimated 300 people turned out for the Science March Brainerd Lakes Saturday, a satellite march of the March for Science in Washington, D.C.

Among the marchers were people of all ages, from infants to seniors, and their canine companions. Hunter Johnson, 13, traveled with his mother from Crosslake to participate in the Science March.

"I've seen these marches happen on television all the time, and I was always thinking, well yeah, this stuff is really important. But when it comes to science, science doesn't need to have some kind of party association," Hunter said. "It should be universally accepted, and it's really important that we do that because if we did all universally accept scientific research, we'd be so much further."

The group gathered in Gregory Park in Brainerd before marching west down the sidewalk on Washington Street, crossing the Mississippi River, circling Walgreens on Northwest Fourth Street and returning to the park.

The march was organized by four Brainerd High School students, part of the Eco Club, along with support from Stand Up Brainerd Lakes, a chapter of the organizing group Stand Up Minnesota.

Sarah Wiger, 18, said organizing the Science March started in the back room of the high school library.

"Hopefully it encourages other people our age that we can actually make a difference," Wiger said.

Sydney Stock, 18, agreed with Wiger.

"You hear all the time, well I, myself, not one person can make a difference," Stock said. "But we know so many people, and we have so many people to back us up."

Organizer Anna Dillon, 17, said she participated in the Women's March in January and was inspired.

"I didn't realize you could do something so big in Brainerd," Dillon said. "We're so happy with today's turnout."

The organizers said they appreciated the intergenerational group who showed up for Saturday's march, and hoped people took home the message that science isn't partisan.

"Science impacts everything," Dillon said. "Education, health care, and our lakes. We're in the land of 10,000 lakes."

"Science doesn't favor one party," Wiger said.

A fourth organizer, Laura Wadsten, 17, was unable to attend Saturday's event.

Although the event was billed specifically as nonpartisan, the group was paid a visit from U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., who gave a brief speech. The congressman recalled his own organizing endeavors. His first action was to organize a sit-in in the cafeteria at Franklin Junior High School, he said, to demand the school lunch menu be printed ahead of time.

"One of my very first lessons in politics is that when people show up and are clear in what they want, in communicating to their leaders, it can make a big difference," Nolan said.

Nolan also pointed to his marching against the Vietnam War and marching in Gregory Park against the war in Iraq. Nolan said the $6 trillion spent on the Iraq war could have been spent on college educations, infrastructure and supporting scientific research.

"For another one of those trillion, we could have financed the science-based federal policies that doubled life expectancy in this country and created the best and the strongest economy and middle class anywhere in the history of the world," Nolan said. "But make no mistake about it, the inescapable truth is we have a majority in Washington, D.C., that want to roll back a century of science-based progress." —for more photos go to https://goo.gl/UkPpsv

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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