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South Loop Students Join Call for Gun Control

This article was reported and co-written by: Eden Bunna, Mayan Darbyshire, Mary Elizabeth Figueroa, Michael Matti, Blaise Mesa, Therese Niedbala, Marcus Paul and Benjy Sabitt

Students across the Loop joined the 3,000 protests nationwide to stand in solidarity for gun control reform in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting that rocked the nation.

Exactly one month after a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people, students and lawmakers across the country took action.

Columbia students left their Wednesday morning classes and marched on Michigan Avenue. Photo by Michael Matti.

At Columbia College Chicago students took to the streets outside 1014 and 618 S. Michigan Ave., holding signs and each other as some students participated in 17 minutes of silence, a minute for each victim of the Parkland shooting.

“People are starting to listen,” said Mary Gring, first year graduate student at Columbia studying interdisciplinary arts and media. “It’s a little bit harder to ignore when students are actively walking out of their classroom buildings saying ‘we’re not safe here.’”

Meanwhile at Jones College Prep, the mood was less somber as students poured out of the building onto Polk street, which was blocked off from traffic by the police.

High schoolers wore orange shirts which symbolize the orange vests hunters use to differentiate themselves from other hunters, which was inspired by the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who was killed by gun violence in 2013.

Jones College Prep students dress in orange to symbolize their fear of being shot, similar to how hunters protect themselves. Photo by Therese Niedbala.

Students at Jones also chanted “stop the silence, end gun violence” and “this is what democracy looks like.”

Donna Cutler, 77, member of Indivisible Chicago—an anti-Trump group—and a grandmother residing in the South Loop, clapped as the students walked out. “What Congress is doing, sitting on their fannies and doing nothing, is making me very angry,” Cutler said, “I’ve been angry for a year and a half now.”

Students echoed Cutler’s growing anger over gun legislation.

“We’re trying to get legislation on the local level in Chicago to make sure that politicians don’t take National Rifle Association or Illinois State Rifle Association money,” said Will Conley, a Jones student who founded the Common Cause Illinois chapter—a government advocacy group—at his school. “Once we get that done, we want to spread it to the rest of Illinois, and then after that, nationally.”

In response to gun violence across the state the Illinois legislature voted to ban bump stocks, along with other legislative actions two weeks ago.

But Tuesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation that would have required gun retailers to be licensed by the state, calling it “unnecessary, burdensome regulation” that would have hurt small business owners and wouldn’t have made communities safer.

A student stands in front of 1014 S. Michigan Ave. during Wednesday’s walkout.

The protest at Columbia may not make a difference said Koko Stubitsch, a freshman American Sign Language interpretation and vocal performance student at Columbia, but these protests show people “what we think should change.”

Future protests against gun violence include a nationwide, March 24, March For Our Lives protest in Washington D.C., and various sites across the country, including Union Park in Chicago.

“We are the people who are going to take over the world next,” Stubitsch said. “We should have a say in how we move forward.”

Contributing: Associated Press

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