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Chicago Students Add Time To Walkout For Local Victims Of Gun Violence


All over America today, students staged walkouts to protest school shootings. Let's hear now from Chicago where students rallied against the wider epidemic of gun violence in their city. NPR's Cheryl Corley has this report.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Hundreds of students from three different schools filled Renaissance Park on the South Side of Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: St. Sabina, where are you?


CORLEY: They carried signs that read you can be the change, rebels for peace and some held signs with photos of young Chicagoans killed by gun violence. Fifteen-year-old Keshawn Newman (ph) says it's the street violence that concerns many students here. His teenage brother was killed by gunfire two years ago.

KESHAWN NEWMAN: I'm angry that I have to worry about losing another brother to gun violence. I'm angry that not enough people have been speaking upon this.

CORLEY: And he says it's up to students now to make a difference. It was a call that energized the young people.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Ain't no justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Ain't no justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's just us.

CORLEY: Eighteen-year-old senior Cassius Kearns (ph) called gun violence out of control. He says there must be more programs created to keep young people engaged.

CASSIUS KEARNS: I encourage you all today, students and teachers, to come together and start outreach programs at your school, get your community involved and get your youths off the street because we are the change. Repeat after me. We are the change.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: We are the change.

KEARNS: We are the change.

CORLEY: Sixteen-year-old Diamond Ocasio (ph) says she does consider students the change factor now, even when it comes to the push for gun reforms.

DIAMOND OCASIO: I'm with Parkland on that. The change is we're going to get more guns off the streets. We're going to make sure there's an age restriction where teenagers or 18-year-olds can't get a gun that fast. And there should be a waiting period.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We stand with you, Parkland, Fla.

CORLEY: At the end of the rally, the students released balloons, a blue one for a Chicago police commander slain last month, 17 for the 17 Parkland victims and many more for people killed by gun violence in Chicago. Some students said they will continue the fight for school safety by attending the march being held later this month in Washington. But this walkout, they said, was especially needed to help raise awareness about what's happening on the streets in their town.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.