Thousands in Chicago, suburbs join US anti-gun violence marches

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 24: Protestors chant during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence.

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.

A larger march in Washington, D.C., drew hundreds of thousands.

Watch SkyCam9 footage of the crowd: