In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, thousands in Chicago billowed through Union Park on the west side, protesting for stricter gun laws. Their chants roared through the city’s backyard echoing for change.
“I feel that there is some serious momentum and it’s important to get behind because it’s not just Parkland, it’s Chicago,” said Chicagoland mother Lauren Carter who attended the march with friends and family.
Spearheaded by the Parkland student survivors, March For Our Lives blossomed into a national movement. Here in Chicago, the day’s event was organized by the city’s own: youth whose everyday lives have been tainted by gun violence.
“This ain’t just for Parkland. This is for the kids in Humboldt Park laying after getting hit,” said Jaylin Kobayashi, a student at Whitney Young High School who performed his poem “The Zoo” at the event.
Attendees and organizers are seeking to turn a moment into a movement. And the day’s event tackled more than just gun control. Activists discussed issues plaguing the Chicagoland community and beyond.
“Last year, we lost 650 lives due to gun violence. 3457 people were shot this is Chicago. We march for our lives every single day,” said Juan Reyes from the Chicago Student Union.
Sophia Gonzalez, a teacher on the West side, came out to honor her former students who lost their lives to guns. She also voiced her opposition against arming teachers in schools.
“It is my obligation to raise my voice and advocate for our students and to every teacher who has ever taken a bullet,” she said. “We are not human shields, and now we have to think about whether or not we are going to have step in front of a bullet and it’ enough.”
For student Chase Skopek, attending the march was a way to get involved in a movement he feels is important and directly affects him.
“I’m scared…. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel endangered but I don’t feel safe.”
Many of the organizers and other young people here will soon be old enough to vote and play a part in the legislative process. In a nation divided, they’ve found unity within one another.