CHICAGO — Thousands of students and activists protested across Illinois on Saturday to press for gun control in the wake of a shooting that left 17 dead at a Florida high school last month.
Chicago's March for Our Lives rally at Union Park drew thousands of protestors holding signs that said "Never again" and "I stand with the students."
Young activists told WGN's Mike Lowe they were inspired by survivors of the Parkland, Fla., massacre — but that the issue of gun violence has a special urgency in Chicago, where nearly 4,000 shootings happened last year alone. In 2017, there were more than 600 murder.
Jones College Prep student Eduardo Medel said Saturday's event wasn't "just a march, this is a movement."
Sabrina Bitre, a high school senior from Hoffman Estates, said she hopes to scare political leaders into actions. Students on Saturday said they were outraged by what they see as elected officials' inability to stand up for stricter gun laws.
"I hope it makes them very scared," Bitre said. "I'm going to be 18 next month, and I'm going to vote."
All of Saturday's speakers in Chicago were students.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who has long advocated stricter gun laws, attended the Union Park rally: "It's madness. Can anyone really say this is what the Second Amendment envisioned? Of course not."
Hundreds marched in Elgin. And in Bloomington, hundreds gathered outside the McLean County Museum of History. There also were hundreds of marchers in O'Fallon in southern Illinois.
The Illinois protesters are among hundreds of thousands who rallied in the nation's capital and cities across America on Saturday in one of the biggest youth protests since the Vietnam era.
It's a moment of political awakening for the so-called "mass shooting generation." Thousands of young people have become student-activists. They're demanding stricter gun laws, outraged by decades of inaction by elected leaders. @wgnnews Is covering the massive @marchforourlives at Union Park. "In Chicago, we march for our lives everyday," said Juan Reyes, a student at Whitney Young high school. #marchforourlives
Watch SkyCam9 footage of the crowd: