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Richard Anderson / Todd Thompson, Pierre Capitol Journal 

Alex Kandolin of St. Thomas More, right, goes up for a shot against Redfield/Doland's Addison Rozell Thursday night in a Round of 16 game in Pierre. STM rolled 52-28.

Walkout organizer: I want to feel safe at school again

It could happen here. It already did.

That’s the sentiment Kendall Diehl says she carries with her as she helps organize a walkout for students to protest gun violence in schools in the wake of a Florida shooting last month that left 17 dead.

“We’ve joked, during drills, that it could never happen here,” said Diehl, a 15-year-old sophomore at Stevens High School. “But the Florida students probably thought it would never happen there either.”

The walkout is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the Enough: National School Walkout, which will begin at 10 a.m. March 14. Diehl said the students plan to walk out for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the Florida shooting victims, but is uncertain where they will go.

“I was going to talk to the principal about maybe meeting in the commons for 17 minutes of silence, or even talking about it during that time,” she said.

Diehl will hold an information session at her house in Rapid City at 6 p.m. Monday to answer questions about the walkout.

Rapid City Stevens High School experienced an active shooter situation in 1991 when a student held 22 fellow classmates hostage in a math class with a sawed-off shotgun. No one was injured, but Diehl said that history and the shooting last month in Florida are enough to convince her that something needs to change.

With encouragement from her mother, Amanda Diehl, she said she made the decision to organize the local walkout. She will join hundreds of other students across the nation to honor school shooting victims and push for stricter gun laws.

“The point is to bring attention to the fact that kids are being killed in a place where they are supposed to be safe,” Kendall Diehl said.

The walkout, led nationally by the Women’s March Network, is designed to "protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” according to the network’s website. “Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”

The protest has been contentious in other districts, with the Garretson schools in South Dakota canceling a student-led walkout over objections by parents and community members.

“The point isn’t to offend anyone, especially people who own guns,” Diehl said. “It’s just to honor those who lost lives and to bring change.”

The Rapid City school district has not decided yet how it will address a walkout. District officials plan to meet before the walkout to discuss how they will address students leaving classes.

On Wednesday, the school district released a statement saying, “We want to honor our students’ right to express their views and opinions in a safe and respectful way. Our goal is to be proactive and do our best to plan to ensure students’ safety. At this point, we do not know exactly what that plan looks like. However, we are engaging students to hear their ideas.”

The district plans to host a public forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Western Dakota Tech Events Center to address concerns surrounding safety at the district’s 23 schools.

Ultimately, Diehl said she would like to see a change in the types of firearms that can be purchased. “We believe that people shouldn’t be using semi-automatic weapons or military-grade guns,” she said. “If they’re for hunting, they shouldn’t be using that kind anyway. We don’t see the need for weapons like that.”

Mostly, she said, she wants to feel safe when she steps onto school grounds.

“It’s sad,” she said. “Preschoolers have to learn about it at such a young age. It’s just sad.”

She said people interested in the March 5 walkout information session can RSVP at

Rapid City middle schoolers unite in song

Choir directors are rarely ever satisfied.

So on Thursday morning, when guest conductor Kelby Fode said "We'll do that one more time," some groans could be heard from many of the seventh- and eighth-grade choir students inside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Theater.

But Fode and the students made sure all was in musical order during the rehearsal in preparation for the evening's annual United in Song All City 7th-8th Grade Choral Music Festival concert. More than 450 students from five Rapid City area middle schools participated in the rehearsal. 

Students learned the concert repertoire at their respective schools, then came together at the civic center Thursday for a final rehearsal with guest Fode of Sioux Falls and accompanist Vonnie Houchin of Rapid City.

The concert, which also included a guest performance from Central and Stevens High School choirs, kicks off "Music In Our Schools" month and was the first of three all-city music festivals.

Fode began his teaching career in Lake Preston in 1973 and also taught in Wessington Springs and Huron before finishing his career in Brookings, where he retired in 2009.

SD Democrats fight putting 'Marsy's Law' fix on June ballot

PIERRE | Emergency legislation that would place a constitutional fix to the "Marsy's Law" victims' bill of rights on the June primary ballot advanced Thursday over protests from Democratic lawmakers in South Dakota.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations voted 7-2 to approve the bill, which would put the constitutional amendment before voters on June 5 and budget $200,000 for the secretary of state to pay for the unusual move, among other provisions.

Senate Democratic Leader Billie Sutton said he opposes spending $200,000 to place the measure before voters in the lower-turnout primary election. Democrats don't currently have primary contests for governor or U.S. House that would draw their voters to the polls.

"I just don't think we want to continue to go down this road of putting it on the primary when we clearly know that in the general you're going to have a better turnout and more people are going to weigh in on that," said Sutton, who is the sole Democratic candidate for governor.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said voters have never decided a ballot question in a primary. A special election for statewide ballot questions was last held in April 2001.

The Marsy's Law constitutional amendment passed with about 60 percent support in November 2016, but critics say it's causing problems for law enforcement and prosecutors and spiking costs for counties. It guarantees crime victims and their family members the right to privacy, protection from harassment or abuse and timely notice of trial, sentencing and post-judgment proceedings.

The new proposal would ask voters to make changes to the amendment including requiring victims to opt into many rights, explicitly allowing authorities to share information with the public to help solve crimes and limiting the definition of a victim.

Lawmakers are advancing changes to the amendment under an agreement with the campaign that has persuaded voters in several states to approve versions of Marsy's Law. Supporters say approving the tweaks in June would fix problems sooner than waiting until November and could save counties money.

Republican House Speaker Mark Mickelson, who negotiated the compromise, said he's confident Democratic voters "will support fixing this problem whenever the election is." He also said it would be helpful for the measure to stand out as the only question on the ballot.

Ryan Erwin, a strategy consultant for the Marsy's Law for All campaign, said the group would work to pass the compromise amendment if it appears on the June or November ballot. But he said it's better to clear up any ambiguity sooner rather than later.

"If there were an election tomorrow, we would be for that," he said.

The bill will require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate to pass. An emergency provision means it would take effect immediately and would also block opponents from referring it to the ballot for a public vote. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he would sign the bill.

The actual constitutional amendment that would ask voters to make changes to Marsy's Law is advancing at the Republican-controlled Capitol as a separate piece of legislation. The state Senate voted Wednesday to approve that measure.

South Dakota would be the first state to alter Marsy's Law out of the six that have enacted it. It's named after California college student Marsalee "Marsy" Nicholas, who was stalked and killed in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend.

Her brother, billionaire Henry Nicholas, has bankrolled constitutional amendments approved by voters in California, Ohio, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. Montana's Supreme Court recently tossed the constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016, citing flaws in how it was written.

Trump orders big tariffs on steel, aluminum

WASHINGTON — Ordering combative action on foreign trade, President Donald Trump declared Thursday the U.S. will impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, escalating tensions with China and other trading partners and raising the prospect of higher prices for American consumers and companies.

With "trade war" talk in the air, stocks closed sharply lower on Wall Street.

Trump said firm action was crucial to protect U.S. industry from unfair competition and to bolster national security. However, his announcement came only after an intense internal White House debate. It brought harsh criticism from some Republicans and roiled financial markets with concerns about economic ramifications.

Overseas, Trump's words brought a stinging rebuke from the president of the European Commission. Though the president generally focuses on China in his trade complaining, it was the EU's Jean-Claude Juncker who denounced his plan as "a blatant intervention to protect U.S. domestic industry."

Juncker said the EU would take retaliatory action if Trump followed through.

Canada, the largest source of steel and aluminum imports in the U.S., said it would "take responsive measures" to defend its trade interests and workers if restrictions were imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum products.

On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 index tumbled 36.16 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,677.67. It's the third straight day where the index has lost at least 1 percent. It had only four such days last year. 

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 420.22 points, or 1.7 percent, to 24,608.98, and the Nasdaq composite fell 92.45, or 1.3 percent, to 7,180.56.

Also, China expressed "grave concern" today about a U.S. trade policy report that pledges to pressure Beijing but had no immediate response to Trump's plan to increase tariffs on steel and aluminum. The report Thursday accused China of moving away from market principles and pledged to prevent Beijing from disrupting global trade. "The Chinese side expresses grave concern," said a Commerce Ministry statement. Chinese officials have threatened to take "necessary measures" to defend their country's interests.

Trump, who has long railed against what he deems unfair trade practices by China and others, summoned steel and aluminum executives to the White House and said next week he would levy penalties of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. The tariffs, he said, would remain for "a long period of time," but it was not immediately clear if certain trading partners would be exempt.

"What's been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It's disgraceful," Trump told the executives in the Cabinet Room. "When it comes to a time when our country can't make aluminum and steel ... you almost don't have much of a country."

The president added: "You will have protection for the first time in a long while, and you're going to regrow your industries. That's all I'm asking. You have to regrow your industries."

Increased foreign production, especially by China, has driven down prices and hurt U.S. producers, creating a situation the Commerce Department has called a national security threat.

However, critics raised the specter of a trade war, suggesting other countries will retaliate or use national security as a reason to impose trade penalties of their own.

Trump's move will likely raise steel and aluminum prices here. That's good for U.S. manufacturers. But it's bad for companies that use the metals, and it prompted red flags from industries ranging from tool and dye makers to beer distributors to manufacturers of air conditioners. The American International Automobile Dealers Association warned it would drive prices up "substantially."

"This is going to have fallout on our downstream suppliers, particularly in the automotive, machinery and aircraft sectors," said Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade official who is now vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Steel-consuming companies said steel tariffs imposed in 2002 by President George W. Bush ended up wiping out 200,000 U.S. jobs.

The decision had been strenuously debated within the White House, with top officials such as economic adviser Gary Cohn and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis raising concerns.

The penalties were pushed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, an economist who has favored taking aggressive action.

Mattis, in a memo to Commerce, said the department was "concerned about the negative impact on our key allies" of any tariffs.

Some Republicans in Congress were plainly upset.

"The president is proposing a massive tax increase on American families. Protectionism is weak, not strong," said Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. "You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one."

GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "Every time you do this, you get a retaliation and agriculture is the No. 1 target." House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said through a spokesman he hoped Trump would "consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches before moving forward."

Trump met with more than a dozen executives, including representatives from U.S. Steel Corp., Arcelor Mittal, Nucor, JW Aluminum and Century Aluminum. The industry leaders urged Trump to act, saying they had been unfairly hurt by a glut of imports.

"We are not protectionist. We want a level playing field," said Dave Burritt, president and chief executive officer at U.S. Steel.