Students across Illinois were part of nearly 1 million students nationwide to participate in #ENOUGH student walkouts.
The walkouts took place for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. March 14 across every time zone to protest what students said was Congress’ inaction against the gun violence plaguing schools and neighborhoods. Walkouts occurred at thousands of schools across the country and in all 50 states.
As of Friday, Women’s March, the umbrella group over Youth Empower which organized the protests, listed 3,136 student walkouts taking place across the country.
Illinois lawmakers joined in the action as a number of state senators and their staffs left their offices at 10 a.m. March 14 to stand on the steps of the State Capitol, holding pictures of the 17 students and staff members killed in the Parkland school shooting Feb. 14. A picture of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, killed Feb. 13 in Downtown Chicago, was also held in the remembrance.
State. Sen. Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst), whose legislation on banning bump stocks passed in the Senate last week, joined with other senators during the walkout.
Nybo said the group on the Capitol steps came together “as colleagues committed to working together on behalf of students, teachers, police officers, parents and all members of our community who should be able to live, or work, or learn, or worship, or anything else without the fear that their lives are in danger.”
State Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) organized the Senate walkout “not to preach or lecture about guns, but to honor the 17 students and staff members who were gunned down a month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.”
Bush said the shooting that took place Feb. 14 forever changed Parkland and that the action the survivors took in the wake of the shootings forever changed her.
“In the month since the shooting, classmates have been demanding their voices be heard, demanding that we do something so that students aren’t afraid to go to school, to the mall or to a concert,” Bush said.
She said she has met with students in Grayslake and Round Lake, adding that those students’ concerns are the same.
“They want to feel safe in school and they want their voices to be heard,” Bush said. “We want these young people to know that we hear them and we support them. We stand with the students in our districts, across this country and across this state.”
After the Parkland victims were individually memorialized, Bush said, “This doesn’t need to happen. It shouldn’t happen.”
“We must do more to protect our children from being gunned down at school,” the Grayslake senator said.”
Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) said that the three minutes of silence lawmakers offered in tribute to the shooting victims represented “three minutes that those victims cannot share with their loved ones.”
“We call gun violence an epidemic for a very good reason because guns and bullets do not discriminate against race, religion, age, gender or creed, whether you wear a school uniform or a police uniform,” Collins said. “For that reason, we must stand united … Let us raise our voices together.”
Many of the student walkouts also included voter registration drives on campuses, encouraging classmates to join the Power to the Polls movement by registering to vote and holding leaders accountable in midterm elections.
“The inspiring number of students who participated in #ENOUGH walkouts, despite some schools threatening disciplinary action, made one thing very clear: young people have a voice, we have numbers, we have power and we will not be silenced,” said Winter Minisee, Youth Empower national student leader and a student at Encore High School for the Arts in Riverside, Calif. “If our elected officials aren’t listening to us, we will bring our power to the polls and we will vote them out of office in November. Enough is enough. We demand action.”
For almost a month, Youth Empower organizers assisted students across the county in planning the walkouts.
As part of the walkouts, Empower organizers drafted a list of demands, which included that Congress enact an immediate resolution declaring gun violence a public health crisis and dedicating federal funding to research solutions and implement violence intervention programs and that Congress recognize all forms of gun violence, including violence committed by police.
—- Illinois Senators, students lament loss of lives to gun violence —–