Officials, students hold anti-violence rally

April 1, 2008 9:18:52 PM PDT
Hundreds of Chicago public school students, elected officials and community leaders rallied in downtown Chicago Tuesday in hopes of stopping the violence.

Frustrated with the number of students killed by gunfire, community leaders are calling for the passage of new gun legislation. Hundreds of students joined in the movement to reverse a deadly pattern of young people being shot and killed. So far, 20 Chicago public students have been killed by gunfire this school year.

Students from Simeon Career Academy, 8147 S. Vincennes, left school Tuesday with the superintendent's blessing. The students took part in an anti-violence rally at the Thompson Center. Empty desks and pairs of shoes symbolized the young men and women who have been killed.

The rally has become a response after each time a Chicago student is shot and killed. Community activist Father Michael Pfleger began the rallies last month. Tuesday's was the third rally.

"When young people stand up and say enough is enough we will turn the corner on violence in this city and in this country. You are the hope. The young people, we need you to take the lead and say no more guns and no more violence," said Father Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Church.

Over the weekend, Chavez Clark was killed. Clark was taking Saturday classes at Simeon Career Academy.

"One of us could be next. We need to stop the violence. It could have been any of us. I just left 5 minutes before the event happened. It could have been me," said Joshua Johnson, Simeon student.

This rally was about and for the youth, but plenty of well-known adults voiced their concern and offered support.

"We need those lawmakers to pass these laws. And I wish I can do them by myself but I can't. I need to get those lawmakers that pass laws that tighten up rules on the gun shops and hold the gun manufacturers accountable," said Governor Rod Blagojevich.

"Go back to your school as a student and elementary and high school, be not afraid. Tell somebody if there's a gun in and around a classroom. And if someone is having difficulties, if there's any arguments between students, take that to your principal or teacher because you're going to prevent some child being killed," said Mayor Daley.

The rallies had started by the crowd marching to First Methodist Church Chicago Temple to light a candle for the victims. But Tuesday's crowd was too large. Instead the students marched around the Thompson Center. While the Thompson Center may symbolize state government, most legislators do not have offices there.

Some gun owner rights experts like attorney Walter Maksym, however, question whether it's appropriate for students to miss class to attend a, what he calls, political event at taxpayer expense.

"Busing them there, I imagine that's tax dollars. And it's for a political agenda that is personal to these politicians and the head of the school board. They should foot the bill and leave the children in school," Maksym said.

Second Amendment rights experts also say they want the killing to stop. But they say more gun laws are not the answer.

"In Chicago you can't own a gun. And if laws worked, we wouldn't have any murders," said Maksym.

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