ABC7 Chicago, Youth for Peace Marchers Take Stand Against Violence

June 5, 2015 (source)

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 2,000 Chicago students from middle and high schools marched 13 blocks Friday morning on the Near South Side to speak out against gun violence and stand up for peace.

The chanting youth were students from the Perspectives Charter Schools network. which organized the event. The Youth for Peace march started at 24th and South State streets, near the network's Joslin campus high school, and ended at 36th and Wabash Avenue, near Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy.

"We're tired of this senseless gun violence," said Razia Hutchins, a Perspectives student. "Don't be a victim. Choose to be a voice. Stand up and uplift each other instead of killing each other."

After the march, a Peace Jam was held at East 36th Street and South Wabash Avenue.

The event coincides with the first Chicago International Youth Peace Movement conference, which is being organized with a coalition of faith-based groups and individuals led by hip hop artist Jessica Disu.

Disu was recently chosen by Mayor Emanuel to lead the city's "Summer of Faith and Action" program.

Emanuel greeted students and delivered opening remarks.

"There is nothing that happens in our schools, our places of worship and our community groups. There is nothing on the streets of the city of Chicago that's more powerful than what's here," Emanuel said. "There is no gang banger. There is no gang, there are no guns stronger than the people here today."

The peace march and conference, which runs Friday and Sunday, comes after two violent weekends in Chicago. May has been the deadliest since 2012 with 46 murders. May had six more homicides than May 2014.

Last weekend, six people were killed and 24 injured. The weekend before that, Memorial Day weekend, saw 12 people killed, 43 injured.

Last year's march was one of the largest led by middle and high school students in the city.

"It's us peers standing up against other peers to say 'What you're doing is not right' and I think it's a much more powerful message when it's coming from our peers versus it coming from teachers and parents," said Janeya Cunningham, a student at Perspectives Charter School.