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Parkland students kick off ‘Road to Change’ tour in Chicago

Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre kicked off a nationwide advocacy tour Friday in Chicago.

Some of the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting attended an annual anti-violence march and rally in the southside of Chicago, led by students from St. Sabina Academy. The event coincides with the last day Chicago public schools are in session.

“Something is happening across this country,” Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church told attendees at the rally. “Young people are rising up, from the north to the south, to the east, to the west. They are taking action.”

The Parkland students announced their “March For Our Lives: Road to Change” bus tour after their school’s graduation this month. The tour will include 75 stops across the country, and will focus on registering young people to vote and push for gun reform nationwide.

Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, died in the Parkland shooting, painted a mural in honor of his son and to raise awareness on gun violence.

Why Chicago?

Parkland senior Alfonso Calderon explained why their first sojourn was to Chicago.

“We’re calling this the road to change and what better place to bring change than Chicago, it’s not the people, it’s the way people see Chicago,” Calderon said.

Hundreds of people attended the rally holding signs demanding changes to gun laws and chanting “Chicago Strong.” Among the attendees were former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and entertainers Chance the Rapper, Jennifer Hudson and Will.I.Am.

“Vote, vote, vote, let the youth lead,” Giffords told the crowd.

Treyvon Bosley, whose 18-year-old brother was killed by gun violence in Chicago, said the Parkland students have helped bring attention to local groups.

“I’ve been fighting anti-violence for eight or nine years now and we did a press conference and got no press at all and to see that Parkland got the press and allowed us to use their platform to spread our message of everyday shootings,” said Bosley, a leader for youth violence prevention group Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere.

During the event, three Chicago youth read the names of 147 young people who were victims of gun violence this year, including a 1-month-old.

Thousands then took to the streets to march for peace, the first steps on their own road to change.

By Meridith Edwards, CNN