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On National School Walkout Day, Students On Chicago's South Side Chant For Gun Reform


Today, thousands of students from schools around this country are walking out of class to protest gun violence. This is the third national student-led demonstrations since the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., killed 17 people in February. Today's action was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, where 13 people died in 1999. Now, this issue of gun violence has a unique resonance for young people in Chicago, where many kids feel under threat every single day.

And let's go to Chicago and NPR's David Schaper, who's on the line. Hi, David.


GREENE: So what are you seeing and hearing from students in that city today?

SCHAPER: Well, I'm at a school - Von Steuben Metropolitan Science and Math High School in the Albany Park neighborhood. It's actually a school that's clustered by a couple of other high schools. There's Roosevelt High School nearby and Northside College Prep nearby, and this is in the center of those. And I would say a good 75, maybe even a hundred students walked out shortly after 10 o'clock. They came out in, you know, small groups, not altogether, not in unison, but they gathered on the sidewalk here.

But, you know, the participation at some of the other high schools at Roosevelt was not nearly as good. The kids from Northside walked over here. It's about a half mile away, and then they all walked en masse to the L stop, where they're going to head downtown to a big rally that's happening downtown. And the key thing that they want to know - people to know is that we might not be able to vote now, we might be too young, but we're going to be voting soon, and you need to pay attention to our concerns. They were chanting, what do we want? Gun reform. And when do we want it? Now.

GREENE: Well, you know, there was a poll recently from Pew Research saying 57 percent of American youngsters are worried that their schools could be targeted by a shooter. You are in a city where you have reported so much on how violence is a part of life, sadly, every day for a lot of people. So is that fear different for young people in Chicago?

SCHAPER: You know, it really is. And I was at an elementary school yesterday talking to planners of a march and neighborhood rally there that they're keeping close to the school. That's in the Englewood neighborhood, where, you know, shootings happened not quite everyday but quite often. There have been two students at that elementary school - an eighth grader and a sixth grader - who have been shot and killed in the last couple of years, other students who have been wounded. And the concern is not so much - even though they go through those drills, those active-shooter drills, those emergency drills and they get prepared for that kind of thing. And they're really more worried about walking to and from school, going to the park on the weekends and hanging out with their friends on the street. It is a daily threat, and it really affects these kids deeply.

GREENE: Is there ever a sense as they watch kind of this national movement that we've seen in recent months that it's the kind of campaign that a lot of communities that - you're in Chicago, around Chicago now - have been, you know, fighting to start for a much longer time?

SCHAPER: Yeah. You know, they love the fact that they've been embraced by the movement since the - that was created out of the Parkland shooting. There's a little bit of a double-edged sword here though, that they feel a little nervous about, you know, because the constant threat of gun violence is always apparent. But they do feel like standing up and speaking out right now. Their voices are being heard.

GREENE: NPR's David Schaper reporting from Chicago this morning. David, thanks a lot.

SCHAPER: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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