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Chicago area youth say ‘March For Our Lives’ demands end to city’s gun violence

Organizers of Saturday's March For Our Lives Chicago have been networking with area gun control advocates. On March 16, they participated in an event in support of Dick's Sporting Goods' tightening its gun sale policies. (R-L) Off the Street Club volunteer Vic Maurer; march organizers Emerson Toomey, Marley Rosario, Isabella Paredes and Natalie Daskal; Off the Street Club associate executive director Arnett Morris, and youth served by the West Side nonprofit. | Provided photo

It had long bothered Emerson Toomey that so many of her Lane Tech High School friends who traveled to the elite test-in school on the North Side talked of living with daily gun violence in their own South and West side neighborhoods.

In January, however, gun violence hit home for Toomey, who lives on the North Side.

“My mother was walking to her car at around 6 p.m. A car drove by and somebody started shooting out of it. One bullet grazed her shoulder. It was really scary. Until then, it wasn’t as personal for me,” the 17-year-old senior said.

Toomey is among some dozen area high school and college students organizing the March For Our Lives Chicago event taking place in tandem with hundreds of others nationwide Saturday. A rally and march, expected to draw thousands, is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph.

Driven by student survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a main demonstration is planned in Washington, D.C.

Parkland students spearheading the movement made the New York talk show rounds on Monday, and Chicago area students did the same on Tuesday, appearing on Windy City Live and partnering with the city’s staunchest gun control advocates.

The nation’s advertising and creative community has jumped in to support the youth-driven March For Our Lives demonstrations this Saturday, partnering with the Gun Safety Alliance to create posters like this one by Jake Van Yahres, titled “Enough.” | Provided graphic

“We’re meeting with Father Pfleger to talk about how our coalition will work together, because he’s working on ending gun violence in Chicago just like we are,” said Marley Rosario, 19, of Logan Square, a University of Chicago freshman and graduate of CPS’ Whitney Young High.

“I think what’s lost on a lot of adults, especially lawmakers, is that their job is to protect students, and if they can’t do that, then it’s time they give up their seats,” said Rosario, noting a groundswell of his peers had registered to vote in Tuesday’s elections.

“We’re going to continue the momentum after March 24th, forming a coalition of youth organizations that will work to ensure the changes we’re demanding are put in place,” he said. “And we’ll register as many of us as possible to vote out those lawmakers who are not protecting us.”

Saturday’s marches — an estimated 800 are planned — follow last Wednesday’s school walkout by tens of thousands of students nationwide demanding school safety and action on gun violence.

“We’re emphazing not only mass shootings in schools, but the gun violence in black and brown communities,” said Isabella Paredes, a 17-year-old senior at southwest suburban Plainfield High School.

“Obviously, we’re talking about legislation that will help decrease gun violence — such as the bill Gov. Rauner vetoed,” Paredes said. “But we’re also focusing on programs that will provide alternatives to violence in these underfunded communities.”