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More than 85,000 attend Chicago's anti-gun March For Our Lives
by Vern Hester and Tracy Baim

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Organizers estimated that more than 85,000 Chicago-area students and community members participated in the March For Our Lives event March 24 held in Union Park on Chicago's Near West Side. Schools from Highland Park to Crown Point, Indiana, and from the South, North and West sides of Chicago were represented.

The event, organized by survivors of gun violence and high school and college students, was among 800 nationwide protesting gun violence and calling for more gun regulations in the aftermath of the murders of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Meanwhile, bisexual activist and Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez was among the many youth speakers in Washington, D.C., speaking to more than 800,000 in a March For Our Lives main event broadcast around the world. Her speech was followed by moments of silence—the total time she was on stage equaled the length of time it took for the Parkland killer to complete his shooting spree—and was widely touted as being among the most powerful speeches of any March on Washington.

The March For Our Lives movement is calling on lawmakers to make students' lives and safety a priority by passing common-sense gun safety legislation. After the rally, community members marched through the surrounding neighborhood and back to Union Park "in solidarity with the Parkland students and all those across the nation affected by gun violence."

As tens of thousands of people streamed in for several hours Saturday, youth speakers addressed the inter-connected issues of racism, poverty, subpar education and more that lead to the high rates of gun violence in Chicago and around the country. There were references to the murders in Parkland, at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and the shooting death by police of Chicago youth Laquan McDonald.

Scheduled speakers included: Chyann Global, Majority Youth Rising; Eduardo Medel, Young Urban Professionals; Denzel Russell, Dontrel Dismuke, Malcolm Russell, Devon Lewis from Kids Off the Block; high school student Caitlyn Smith who spoke on the lack of media attention for female gun violence survivors; Juan Reyes and Chloe Hancock of Chicago Student Union. There were performances by Jalen Kobayashi (poet/singer), the Hinsdale High School Poetry Team and Kuumba Lynx.

"As a student organizer, today is one of the biggest days of my life. We get to use the platform that the Parkland students have started to shine a spotlight on the the need for better gun laws in this country," said Marley Rosario, student organizer in Chicago and co-founder of Gather Activism. "We are telling lawmakers in Illinois and DC that we're not going to take this any longer and this fight is far from over."

Also in D.C., Pulse Nightclub shooting survivors and family members led hundreds of members and supporters of the Human Rights Campaign in the March For Our Lives. Before stepping off, the survivors and family members addressed HRC's annual Spring Equality Convention to talk about the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the importance of mobilizing the LGBTQ community against gun violence.

Christine Leinonen, mother of Drew Leinonen; Brandon Wolf, friend of Drew and Drew's boyfriend Juan Guerrero, who were both killed; and Jose Arraigada—the three of which appeared and spoke on stage at the DNC one month after the shooting in 2016—joined with fellow survivor and Pulse survivor, Ricardo Negron, onePulse Foundation Board Chair Earl Crittenden, and HRC President Chad Griffin to lead hundreds of HRC members and supporters. The marchers were also led by Karamo Brown, one of the hosts of Queer Eye and a graduate of

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoolin Parkland. Brown knew Aaron Feis, the football coach who was killed in the Parkland attack. He is the co-founder of, which combats HIV stigma and provides support and education to the Black LGBTQ community. Brown has partnered with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Center for Disease Control, and the National Black Justice Coalition through his advocacy.

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