United Front: Students protest gun violence in South Side march

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United Front: Students protest gun violence in South Side march

Speakers yelled chants into the crowd, calling for justice for friends and family they had lost.
(Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

Speakers yelled chants into the crowd, calling for justice for friends and family they had lost. (Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

Speakers yelled chants into the crowd, calling for justice for friends and family they had lost. (Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

Speakers yelled chants into the crowd, calling for justice for friends and family they had lost. (Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

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DePaul students from a variety of political and activist groups on campus joined high school students in a surprise march on the South Side on April 20.

Friday was the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. In remembrance of the 1999 school shooting that left 13 dead, students nationwide staged school walkouts to protest gun violence and demand reforms.

There were many Chicago-area students who convened in Grant Park, but the DePaul students traveled to Hyde Park, where they assisted, along with South Side community activists and University of Chicago students, a planned march from Kenwood Academy High School to the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Students in Hyde Park and across the nation organized the third walkout since the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students died.
(Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

The march was organized by Kenwood students who are members of a group called Good Kids Mad City. The group is composed of “Black and Brown young people united in fighting to end violence in our cities,” according to their Twitter bio.

Good Kids Mad City is a part of Communities United, a Chicago-based grassroots community organization that focuses on issues of injustice. Tonii Magiit helped organize the walkout with Good Kids Mad City and hopes the protest will help to bring further awareness about gun violence in Chicago.

“We connected with students in Baltimore, so we started this movement called Good Kids Mad City to talk about the lives that we lose every day here in Chicago, but they don’t get national attention,” Magiit said.

DePaul doesn’t have many Friday classes for students to walk out of, but students still met in the Lincoln Park Quad at 10:30 a.m. to show solidarity with the students walking out. The meetup was a collaboration between Students for Reproductive Justice, Students Against Incarceration, IMPACT DePaul, the DePaul Democrats and DePaul Socialists.

Students stood in solidarity for those killed.
(Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

“There is a growing movement of high school students who are walking out of school and protesting around gun violence,” said Quinn Mulroy of the DePaul Socialists. “We really wanted to relate to that and relate to those students and express our solidarity with them.”

“I am here to support the students who are walking out because I have siblings who are walking out back home,” said Ellie Thorman of the DePaul College Democrats.

After meeting up on the Quad, the group students headed south on the CTA. On the commute they talked about politics and discussed their plans for when they got to the march. That was when Mulroy told the group that the administrators at Kenwood Academy did not know about the march.

“The administration knows that they are going to walk out,” Mulroy said. “They don’t know about the march to UChicago.”

That was by design.

“It was kept very quiet and most people didn’t know this part of the march was happening, because they would have tried to shut it down,” said Guy Emerson Mount, a teaching fellow at the University of Chicago.  “This part of the march was not public.”

After meeting up with the other activists down the block from Kenwood, the marchers were each assigned roles and given a short tutorial on marshalling a protest while they waited for the students. This involved helping marchers stay together, taking the correct route, interacting with police and finding volunteer lawyers from the Lawyers Guild.

DePaul students join Chicago Public Schools pupils in walking out of classes to protest gun violence across the city.
(Jonathan Ballew|The DePaulia)

“Some people walk faster, some people walk slower (…) you kind of keep it together,” former Chicago Public Schools teacher and DePaul Socialist Kyle Gilbertson said. “And also, if there is something the cops are giving us shit about, this is something (so) we have a way to say that this is what we need to do to maintain a disciplined march.”

When the Kenwood Academy students finished their rally on school property, the march began. The activists walked through the streets, chanting as they went. Some chants were aimed at Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the proposed police academy and the Laquan McDonald shooting.

When the students reached the University of Chicago Hospitals, they stood around a display that featured cloth dolls representing the number of students who had died. The high school students then gave speeches about the impact gun violence has had on their lives and communities.

The DePaul Students who helped with the march are calling it a success. Celia Kearney of Students Against Incarceration said she felt satisfied with the 250 student turnout.

“The fact that it was all student organized and run, that is super impressive,” Kearney said.

The organizers with Good Kids Mad City agree.

Colorful dolls were fashioned by students to represent lives lost to gun violence in Chicago.
(Cody Corrall | The DePaulia)

“A lot of people showed up, and the visual art that we had was breathtaking,” said Alex King of Good Kids Mad City.

“I think it was really great that we got to participate and help the high school kids with their march,” Mulroy said.  “We as marshals or police liaisons are important for safety, especially on the South Side where cops are not exactly friendly.”

Overall, the DePaul students felt that going to the South Side made an important statement.

“Especially coming from a university based on the North Side it is important to work with the rest of the city,” Thorman said.  “We don’t have the same problems that people down here have.”

The march gave the DePaul students a chance to network with other activists, both with those at the University of Chicago and with South Side community members.

“The important part is that we got to have this experience, and we got to make connections.” Mulroy said.  “Not just between groups on campus, but also with Black Lives Matter and Good Kids Mad City and the (University of) Chicago students as well who put all this together.”