Chicago Students Join The National Walk Out Against Gun Violence

Thousands of students in Chicago and across Illinois joined millions of other young people that walked out of their classrooms Wednesday as part of a nationwide protest against gun violence.

Walkouts in Chicago began as early as 8:00 a.m., with many timed for 17 minutes – one for each student that was killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida – which sparked the actions.

“I wanted to get my entire school’s attention to gun violence. Not a lot of people are acknowledging gun violence or paying attention to gun violence,” said Nancy, a sophomore at Benito Juarez Community Academy who participated in the school’s walkout. “It’s an important topic we’re supposed to be standing up for.”

A student participates in a die-in at City Hall in Chicago in the afternoon after massive student walkouts calling for gun control

Juarez was one of many Chicago schools that staged walkouts at 10:00 a.m.,most of which lasted 17 minutes. Officials from Juarez told the press they weren’t allowed on school grounds, and at times discouraged students from speaking to media. Still, some students spoke directly to the press.

“It’s very terrifying to just see that a 19 year-old or anybody in the community could have access to a gun and so much power with it…we’re united, but we’re trying to tell everybody that even though there’s gun violence…we’re trying to get this over with,” Kate, a junior at the school, told reporters. “Gun violence doesn’t just happen at school – it happens in the community. It’s terrifying to know that many people are dying…we need to have gun control, more background checks. We need to be safer.”

Several students were detained by Chicago Police on the south-side of the city during the walkouts, according to reports from journalist Pete Grieve.

Students in Chicago didn’t only participate in the walkouts because of political inaction when it comes to mass shootings. They also took to the streets and occupied City Hall in the late afternoon to highlight the root causes of gun violence in their communities, and deliver a list of demands to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“It’s an important topic we’re supposed to be standing up for,” said Nancy, outside of Juarez. “There’s been shootings in my neighborhood, in this neighborhood, and they’re not really in social media. When it comes to white suburban places, it’s all over social media for like a month, and it dominates the media, but it doesn’t dominate our stories.”

“We need change in the way our system is working. Government wants to implement more security in our schools, but that is not effective. If we want something to be effective in our society, we need something that’s actually going to connect with the students, something that’s going to create change within ourselves,” said Jaqueline, a student who participated in the demonstration at City Hall. “We’d prefer that there’d be less security and less police in our schools because that makes us feel like we’re incarcerated. We need help, and that help can come through mental health facilities instead of just using force against us.”

 

In the evening, some students took their demands to the headquarters of the Chicago Public Schools.

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