By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
South Side students, including those from King College Prep, the University of Chicago Charter School – Carter G. Woodson Middle School, Saint Sabina, Leo and Perspectives High Schools, were among many who walked out of school Wednesday in memory of the 17 Parkland, Florida students and faculty massacred by a deranged former student.
While located miles apart, they called for state and federal sensible and safe gun law reforms and an end to the sale of assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle used by Nikolas Cruz, 19, in the Florida shooting.
Father Michael L. Pfleger, who led Saint Sabina Academy, Leo and Perspectives High School students on a 20-minute walk that ended in a rally at Renaissance Park, was outraged that as the students were walking out of their schools, the NRA tweeted, “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”
Pfleger, who for years has opposed the NRA and its marketing “weapons of mass destruction,” said, “The NRA has long made it clear that they don’t care about black and brown life.
“Now they make it clear that no life is more important than their wallets, but our young people will not be stopped,” said Pfleger, who was also joined by former U.S. Secretary Arnie Duncan. “Young people are coming together. The NRA’s chokehold is about to be broken.” Pfleger’s students walked out for 20-minutes—17 for those killed in Florida, one for Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer and two for all those fatally shot in Chicago.
Pfleger was not alone in lashing out at the NRA. Rev. Janette Wilson, senior adviser to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., said, “The NRA has shown a total disregard for the safety of our children and our community. No one needs a military or assault weapon for hunting or shooting. These are weapons of mass destruction designed to take lives.”
Saying these weapons are a danger to citizens, Wilson said, they should be removed from the general public.
In solidarity with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, South Side students began pouring out of their schools for 17 minutes like King College Prep, who walked to 47th and Cottage Grove calling for peace and justice.
At 45th and Drexel Avenue across from King High School were several Black and white youth leaders who prayed for peace and an end to the sale of assault weapons. Activist James Escortt said their message was to “serve the community and help combat gun violence. Shameessha Pryor, a youth mentor an academic coach for CPS, said they want to be “an advocate for change and to let youth know they are not alone.”
Standing near 45th and Cottage were scores of students from the University of Chicago Charter – Carter G. Woodson Middle School headed by Jarred Brown who said, “It’s time for our young people to stand up. It’s too much happening.
“Historically,” Brown added, “this is how we’ve been able to make some changes. By protesting to have our voices heard out here to get our lawmakers to make some changes.”
Within earshot of the grade school, were hundreds of King students who were returning from their walkout chanting, “No Justice, No Peace.” They were escorted by their principal, David L. Narain and several police cars.
“I am proud of the way the students conducted themselves and were organizing their message,” Narain said. “It was not only in solidarity for the Florida students, but in Chicago as well and “how they live with this on a daily basis in Chicago. This is a part of their daily lives.
“It’s a shame they have to rely on something that happened in Florida to bring attention to it. This is not new to us. In some sense many of our kids have become numb to this violence,” said Narain.
The walkout, Narain said, is a “teachable moment.” He said the majority of the students walked out. “There are lessons to be learned.” He said at King High School, there is a restorative justice program that teaches students the art of conflict resolution. “They come carrying baggage from what ever happen at home, unhappy in their happier lives or friendships gone wrong…. “At King, we mend those fences, restore broken situations.
Referring to the walkout, Father Pfleger said, “I think it’s a turning point of saying there’s a new day in America where young people are saying, ‘enough.’ “We’re not going to sit down. We’re not going quietly. We’re the ones being killed and were going to stand up and shout.”