Thousands of students and activists crowded into Union Park on Saturday morning to take part in the March for Our Lives rally calling for tighter gun control laws.
The Chicago demonstration was among hundreds of others taking place across the country as part of a mounting youth-led movement pushing lawmakers to pass stricter gun legislation in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting last month.
Organizers estimated that 85,000 people filled up the Near West Side park by 11 a.m. before marching through the West Loop. Parents and kids alike held signs declaring “Never again” and “I stand with the students.”
Savita Sundar, 15, called it a cause worth fighting for.
“I hope that our government will see that thoughts and prayers won’t do much anymore,” the Hinsdale Central student said.
The rally featured several student speakers and performances calling out the inequality toward people of color, and the lack of resources on the South and West sides of the city where thousands of the city’s shootings are concentrated.
The speakers and crowd repeatedly broke out in chant urging people to take action in the coming general election, with a refrain of “Vote them out.”
“I think the biggest thing is for the young generation, people my age, 17 and 18, to go out and vote, make their voices heard and elect officials who will make the changes that we need,” 17-year-old Naperville Central High School student Nathan Bryk said.
Chicagoan Robin Jennings marched with her 4-year-old son Ewan. She called America “completely backward” in its gun laws.
“I want a future where he’s not terrified of going to school, and he is not afraid anytime he goes out into a public place that somebody has a large weapon and can shoot him,” Jennings said. “I don’t want to be terrified of that either.”
As a peaceful crowd spilled onto Washington Boulevard shortly before 12:30 p.m., several Chicago teens were taking part in the flagship March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Dantrell Blake, a 21-year-old who still has the bullet in his leg from a shooting three years ago, said he made the trip in hopes of helping the movement combat not only gun violence, but violence in general.
“I’m looking for a big change and I wanted to be part of the change,” Blake said.
• ‘Tired of being afraid’: Hundreds of thousands decry guns in marches across U.S.
• Chicago students head to D.C. for March for Our Lives
• EDITORIAL: On Saturday, join March for Our Lives Chicago to fight gun violence
Mya Middleton, 16, went with the Chicago Public Schools’ After School Matters group and was chosen to speak at the D.C. rally. She called the experience “amazing.”
“It was everything to me,” said Middleton, who witnessed an armed robbery while buying groceries at 13 years old. “They all cheered, and they laughed and they shared my pain and they screamed with me.
“Going to Washington, it gave Chicago a voice that they never really had,” she said. “We go through the same thing everyone else in this country does too and… we’re more than just five minutes on the news.”