CHICAGO (CBS) — Approximately 80,000 Catholic school students and staff will participate in the National School Walkout on Wednesday, in solidarity with the growing gun control movement across America.
At St. Sabina Academy, where Father Michael Pfleger has been a longtime anti-violence activist, students will join others from Leo Catholic High School and Perspectives Middle Academy charter school for a rally at nearby Renaissance Park.
The rally is part of the National School Walkout organized by survivors of the deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month. The students in Parkland have become the leaders of a nationwide demonstration in support of tougher gun laws.
“I’m participating in the walkout, because I think what happened to the school, I’m really scared if it happens to ours, and I think it’s really sad,” St. Sabina sixth grader Zoie Milton said.
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Fellow sixth grader Lawrence Lee said the walkout shows the students are standing up for their rights, “and how much we love each other, and how we should stop doing what they’re doing out there.”
Cardinal Blase Cupich, who has asked state lawmakers to work together to strengthen gun laws in an effort to curb violent crime, said he supports the students’ efforts to speak out.
“Anything we can do to build solidarity among young people across the nation to deal with violence in society, to deal with the fact of the madness of high-powered weapons in society, I think that we should be supportive of that,” he said.
The Archdiocese said their schools also will focus on activities to promote peace-building during class on Wednesday.
Pfleger has urged students everywhere to take part in the walkout, even if they’re threatened with detention or other disciplinary action. He said if a student in Chicago is detained, he or she should call Pfleger, and he’ll show up to sit in with the students.
He said the walkout in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood will be three minutes longer than the 17 minutes called for around the country.
“One minute for Commander Paul Bauer, who lost his life here in Chicago; and then two minutes for all the young people in Chicago who have lost their lives. We want to connect the dots. This is not just about Florida,” he said.
Lamar Johnson, violence prevention coordinator for BRAVE (Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere) at St. Sabina, said students also will release 17 balloons in honor of the victims of the deadly school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida.
“Then we have other balloons that we’re going to be releasing in honor of the victims of gun violence in Chicago,” he said.
Johnson joined a small group of St. Sabina students on a visit to Parkland earlier this month, to meet with the survivors of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. He said they feel a special connection with the Florida students who are leading the National School Walkout.