Hundreds rally in Chicago, join national protests for stricter gun laws

“I remember laying in the hospital bed and thinking ‘I’m gonna be able to walk again,’” said Leed Blackman, who was paralyzed in a shooting but eventually walked again. “It’s not about me, though. People are dying every day.”

SHARE Hundreds rally in Chicago, join national protests for stricter gun laws
Advocates for stricter gun regulations rallied in the Loop on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

Advocates for stricter gun regulations rallied in the Loop on Saturday, joining hundreds of other demonstrations around the country, including a main event that drew thousands to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Four years ago, Lucy Christianson marched for stricter gun laws amid the renewed fervor supporting gun legislation spurred by the deadly 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Since then, she’s attended the funerals of her own students who didn’t make it to 14 years old before being gunned down. Christianson said she taught Elijha Booker, a 14-year-old shot and killed in Champaign in 2019.

“Of course we’re gonna protect our kids, but at the same time I think we’re all really tired of hearing everyone applaud teachers and students for being resilient and being brave in the face of something we can’t control,” she said.

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Christianson, 26, has taught in Champaign and St. Louis and is set to teach in Chicago Public Schools this fall. She joined hundreds at Federal Plaza to rally against gun violence and push for more stringent gun legislation.

The latest push to reform U.S. gun regulations is driven by recent incidents that include the racist massacre of 10 Black people at a Buffalo, N.Y. grocery store and the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.

And locally, Chicago has seen three mass shootings in just the past week — the latest on Saturday afternoon, when five people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in the Gresham neighbhood.

Saturday in the Loop, protesters held signs, shouted chants and whooped as speakers urged a ban on assault rifles, universal background checks and eradication of poverty and police brutality.

Michael Cotey, 36, holds his 2-year-old son, Jackson, at Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

Michael Cotey, 36, holds his 2-year-old son, Jackson, at Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop on Saturday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The rally was organized by various groups advocating for gun safety, including Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action and March For Our Lives, in conjunction with demonstrations across the country.

Gun violence survivor Leed Blackman, of Chicago, took the mic and remembered the Uvalde and Buffalo victims. Blackman told the crowd how he was paralyzed in a shooting but regained his ability to walk.

“I remember laying in the hospital bed and thinking ‘I’m gonna be able to walk again,’” he said. “It’s not about me, though. People are dying every day.”

Need Blackman shows his scar from a gunshot wound. He was among those speaking at a March for Our Lives rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop on Saturday afternoon, June 11, 2022.

Need Blackman shows his scar from a gunshot wound. He was among those speaking at a March for Our Lives rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop on Saturday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

As of Saturday, 263 people have been shot and killed in Chicago this year alone, according to Sun-Times data.

Some organizers reflected on the history of the worsening gun violence crisis and advocated for malpractice insurance for gun owners.

“I’m 69. When I was a kid we did kid things,” said Lakeview resident Pat Graham. “We were afraid of falling down and skinning our knee, not going outside or going to school.”

Multiple candidates for public office in Illinois spoke about the state’s relatively strict gun laws compared to neighboring states, but pushed for maintained passion and organization.

“I know every single one of you here doesn’t want to go home and put the sign away and hang up the T-shirt,” said Denyse Wang Stoneman, who represents Illinois’ 16th District in the Illinois House of Representatives. “We have to honor these victims with action.”

For some protesters, gun violence is a health care issue.

“We’re talking about life,” said Susan Friedman, who wore a hat reading: “Grandma says enough.”

She added: “We try to keep people alive when it comes to cancer, diabetes, heart disease. When it comes to guns it’s like, ‘Sorry.’”

Miriam Wauson, 12, holds a sign that says, “Protect kids, not guns” during a March for Our Lives rally at Federal Plaza in the Loop on Saturday afternoon, June 11, 2022.

Miriam Wauson was among those attending Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally in the Loop. “I feel like we shouldn’t have to fight for the basic right to not be shot to death in our schools,” Miriam, 12, told the Sun-Times.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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