MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thousands of Minnesota students and gun control supporters marched Saturday to the state Capitol as part of March for Our Lives, a nationwide push to change gun laws following last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The Minnesota demonstration started around 9 a.m. at Harriet Island in St. Paul. Hundreds gathered there before marching on Wabasha Street toward the Capitol building, where other protesters were gathered. Roads were closed to traffic as thousands marched, carrying signs and chanting, “Enough is enough” and “Protect kids, not guns.”

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The St. Paul Police Department estimated that 18,000 marchers descended peacefully on the Capitol.

“Thanks to all who drove with care so the #MarchForOurLives could make their voices heard,” the department wrote on Twitter.

Some of the demonstrators carried props, such as a skull accompanied by a giant AR-15 rifle – the gun used in the shooting last month that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I’m a mental health provider. The excuse of it’s just about mental health is so wrong. It’s about access,” Beth Stockinger of Minneapolis said.

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The crowd heard from survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“My friend had to hold her friend’s hand as she passed away,” Stoneman Douglas freshman Taylor Benson said. “Why did it have to take 17 of my friends, schoolmates and administrators to be killed for attention to be brought to this issue?”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was among the demonstrators. He described the marching students as “smiling warriors.”

“They know what they want,” he said, “they want to be safe in their schools.”

As noontime approached, a mass of protesters had gathered outside the Capitol for a rally, filling most of the greenspace in front of the building. Temperatures in St. Paul were hovering around freezing.

Supporters young and old promised to continue fighting, marching, and pressing law makers for stricter gun control even after the rally was over.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we have to be here as kids asking our lawmakers to change something,” Eagle Ridge Academy Eighth Grader Nuala Foley said.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of other students were marching across the country, and a massive March for Our Lives protest was slated for Washington.

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Minnesota students were among those who marched on the nation’s capital.

Kate Raddatz