Chicago high school students walk out of class over gun violence

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(CHICAGO) — Students at a Chicago high school staged a classroom walkout Monday afternoon to protest gun violence just days after a shooting near their campus left two teenagers dead and two others wounded.

Students at Benito Juarez Community Academy in the Pilsen neighborhood on the city’s southwest side, left their classrooms and gathered around a makeshift memorial where Friday’s shooting occurred. The students called on city leaders to bolster security on their campus and crack down on gangs.

Many of the students released balloons into the air as they held a vigil for the victims.

“I want Benito Juarez to be safer because, honestly, I felt like this situation wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t a lot of gang activity around the school,” one of the student protest organizers, Kiya, told ABC Chicago station WLS-TV. “It’s scary for people like me, who are not gang-affiliated, that have to go to school every day and then wonder, ‘Dang, am I going to get shot?'”

Gunfire erupted around 2:30 p.m. Friday just outside the Benito Juarez campus, police said. Killed in the shooting were 15-year-old Brandon Perez, a Benito Juarez student, and his friend, 14-year-old Nathan Billegas, a freshman at Chicago Bulls College Prep, family members told WLS. Chicago police said both victims were shot in the head.

Two other teenagers, a 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, were hit by gunfire and are expected to fully recover, according to police.

During a news conference Friday evening, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said the shooting occurred just as school was being dismissed for the day in staggered phases.

No arrests have been announced in the case.

“We are conducting a pretty aggressive investigation and all of our resources are being dedicated to insure that we bring these people to justice that caused this,” Brown said.

Police released a surveillance image Saturday of a person they believe was involved in the shooting, running away from the scene.

“I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re scared to come to school or anything, like, that’s why I’m doing it,” Kiya said of the planned classroom walkout. “I’m doing it for other schools, too, that have to go through this.”

Overall, homicides in Chicago are down 15% from 2021 and shooting incidents have also fallen 20% from a year ago, according to the latest Chicago police crime statistics.

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