A makeshift classroom was set up outside of a downtown government building Tuesday, but there were no pupils. All were dead. Twenty desks, each with a pair shoes on top and the name of the student, represented the 20 Chicago Public Schools students that were fatally shot this year. Nine of the slain students were killed last month. “This is the third time down here in three weeks. We are in a state of emergency. When floods take over land, it’s a state of emergency. Our children are being killed. That’s a state of emergency,” Fr. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church told a crowd of mostly students that nearly reached 1,000 outside of the State of Illinois building. Hundreds of students from Crane High School, Jones College Prep and Simeon High School, along with clergy, political and school leaders, demonstrated to push state lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws. Mayor Richard M. Daley and Arne Duncan, CPS chief executive officer, said since adults aren’t listening to adults, it’s up to the youth to make the difference. “The status quo is broken. The adults haven’t done enough. We need the children to be in the forefront for the social justice movement,” Duncan said. A senior at Simeon agreed with Duncan. Barbara Shannon, 18, said it was a no-brainer for her to come and show state legislators that the students are tired of losing their friends to senseless violence. “I think us being out here will make a difference. The laws can be passed, if they really want to do it,” the Simeon student said. A student from Jones College Prep said the large demonstration showed solidarity among the youth, for the right reasons. “It’s nice to see teenagers getting together for other things instead of starting trouble. We need to be out here each time something like this happens. There are so many of us out here, but I wish it were more,” Ariel Bufkin, a 16-year-old junior at Jones said. As of April 1, there were 22 Chicago Public Schools students killed, 20 of them by gun violence. The total does not include 17-year-old Shannon Brown who died April 1 from wounds sustained by gunshots the previous day. Brown, a former student at a South Side high school, was no longer enrolled in the school system.
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