Students across Chicago area take part in National School Walkout on Columbine anniversary

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Friday marks 19 years since the Columbine High School shooting massacre and students in Chicago and nationwide are marking the date with a walkout.

Students from as many as 20 Chicago schools participated in the walkout.

At Walter Payton High School in the Old Town neighborhood, hundreds of students walked out of school to take a stand on violence that continues to plague Chicago. They're also calling for tougher gun control.

They are part of a much larger movement, with thousands of schools across the country are doing the same thing.

And Friday is a very somber day. It's the 19th anniversary of the tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, when two students opened fire inside Columbine High School killing 12 students and a teacher. So as part of Friday's demonstration students will pause for 13 seconds of silence to remember those innocent lives lost.

Walter Payton students also sending a message to lawmakers to provide more resources to communities dealing with gun violence along with further reform of the Chicago Police Department.

"This about the students of Chicago making a stand about violence in the city and helping disenfranchised communities on the South and West side get funding through a graduated tax program that we're going to demand as law at some point in time," said Payton student Richard Alvarez.

"I know a lot of kids at my school feel really passionately about this and are willing to stand up for it," said Payton student Lucy Mueller.

"My basic message is that something needs to happen, not only in stopping police violence, but also just overall gun control in America," said Payton student Clara Muffitt.

It's been more than two months since the school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed.

The shooting there sparked one of the most powerful national debates on gun control, energizing many young people to take action and lead movements to vote.

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Friday marks 19 years since the Columbine High School shooting massacre and students in Chicago and nationwide are marking the date with a walkout.

Payton is just one of many CPS schools participating in this demonstration Friday. In the South Loop, students wore orange in solidarity with the National Walk-Out Movement. The color is meant to symbolize the clothing that hunters wear to protect themselves in the wild from other hunters.

Chicago Academy High School students walked out in support of stronger gun control Friday.

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It was a powerful message from students in fifth through eighth grade, as they left the school at 10 a.m. The procession made its way from South Loop Elementary to nearby Jones Park at West 13th Street and South Plymouth Court. That's where student council leaders shared their thoughts about the movement that has swept schools across America, and the need to reform the nation's gun laws.

Slain Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer's 13-year-old daughter Grace was among the South Loop students walking out Friday.

"When people value the right to bear arms over our right to live, we have a problem. America's children are at risk. That is when you need to draw the line and do something about it. We are the future of America, and we cannot live like this," Grace Bauer said.

Commander Bauer was killed in February when he was shot outside the Thompson Center. A balloon was released at the park in his honor, as were others, honoring the lives of those in Chicago who have lost their lives to gun violence.

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Students across the Chicago area joined students across the county to call for action on gun violence on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Hundreds of students gathered in Grant Park and marched throughout the park.

It is part of a nationwide movement, but protesters said they are also taking a local focus. They are protesting gun violence in the city of Chicago, calling on local lawmakers for stricter gun laws and demanding reform within the Chicago Police Department and ask that state and city funds be reallocated to support low income communities.

"This march has a lot to do with us speaking up for people, more on the South Side, which they don't get much media about these things and we don't pay attention to their issues as much," said student Alyssia Zepeda.

After rallying in Grant Park, students then began marching to Federal Plaza.

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Students walked out of Naperville Central High School in support of stricter gun laws Friday.

Walkouts also occurred at many suburban schools Friday, including Naperville Central High School, where about 100 kids took park.

The students said that while their numbers may be small, their message remains strong as they continue to advocate and demand action on gun control.

"We're not going to stand for anymore putting it away, putting it aside, this action cannot be politicized, things like that. It's time to politicize it. It's time to make a change. It's time to save some lives," said student walkout organizer Ben Russell.

"Our teenagers are 23 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than other countries, so it's not just what happens, and a school shooting or a church shooting, this is a generation, all these kids coming out have never known life before Columbine. They've never felt safe, so it's not just about schools," said Holly Blastic of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, Western Suburbs.

The protest was held at Rotary Hill across the street from the high school that has a student enrollment of nearly 3,000. Besides observing moments of silence for gun violence victims, the activists plan on letting all voices be heard through an open mic stage as they work to register those eligible to vote all in an effort to bring about change.
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