West Side students march for peace: ‘Put down the guns’
The peace march comes just days after five people were seriously wounded in a shootout in front of the West Garfield Park elementary school.
Over a hundred students poured out of Daniel Webster Elementary School on Wednesday morning to call for peace in West Garfield Park after a Memorial Day weekend shootout left several people seriously wounded in front of their school.
“We should, as a collective, put down the guns,” 14-year-old Hailee Weeks said outside the school. “If you could put the guns down and think about if that was your child or if that was yourself, then I think more people would understand that it is more important to put it down and talk with your voice.”
The students from pre-K to eighth grade marched with posters they made at school that read “Say no to violence and say yes to peace” and called for the end of gun violence. The students were led by school administrators who shouted from a bullhorn, “We want peace in the streets!”
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Chicago police officers guided the students who marched west on Arthington Street, south on Keeler Avenue, east on Roosevelt Road and back north on Karlov Avenue. Cars were honking in support, and backers were shouting out their apartment windows.
The peace march comes just days after five people were seriously wounded in a shootout in front of the elementary school. Shell casings littered the sidewalk, and at least 97 evidence markers were seen throughout the street and around the school. The types of bullets used in the shootout were the same calibers used in AK-47s and other rifles.
The youngest victim was a 16-year-old, who suffered a gunshot wound to the back; and a man and a woman, both 21, who were shot in the left arm. Another 21-year-old man was shot in the left side of the body; and the oldest victim, a 33-year-old man, was shot in the face.
This is the second peace march the school has held. It also comes after a student was gunned down close to the school nearly a year ago.
Principal Khalid Oluewu said they haven’t held peace marches consecutively because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the global pandemic didn’t stop the gun violence plaguing the community from persisting.
Still, he said, his school, at 4055 W. Arthington St., has acted as an oasis for students.
“We are a Level 1 school; we have a number of program offerings that come from within the school day, after school and even Saturday school,” Oluewu said. “But what we haven’t been able to do is curb violence when they are away from school.”
Oluewu said it is up to everyday people to think of ways to mitigate the violence, and marches like the ones that empower young people can help foster change.