Wednesday, March 14, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Proviso West students walking out of school on March 14. | Courtesy Jaleel Anthony
Raneen El-Barbarawi stood atop a wooden box outside of Proviso East High School in Maywood armed with a bullhorn and an impassioned plea.
The Proviso East senior was among high school students across Proviso Township, and around the country, who participated in the National School Walkout, held March 14 at 10 a.m.
The demonstrations were scheduled to last for 17 minutes to symbolize the 17 victims murdered at Florida’s Marjory Stonemon Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
That mass shooting has since served as something of a shock to a country that had, to some observers, become anesthetized to gun violence.
El-Barbarawi, however, wanted to address what she described as the tragically routine murders of young people in her own community.
Proviso East student Raneen El-Barbarawi, pictured holding a bullhorn, during the March 14 walkout. | Courtesy Raven El-Barbarawi
“Millions of hearts ache for those 17 children murdered from gun violence, but why don’t we have those same million hearts aching for those who are also murdered from [gun violence] in our own community,” she said as First Avenue traffic whizzed by.
El-Barbarawi referenced the murder of a 17-year-old student a week earlier, as well as the March 4 killing of Mikhail Evans, 20, a former Proviso East student who was gunned down on the 1100 block of South 6th Ave. in Maywood at around 2:30 p.m.
El-Barbarawi speaking in front of Proviso East High School on March 14. | Courtesy Raneen El-Barbarawi.
“We must pay respects for those two students killed in our own community,” she said. “A community is slowly tearing apart because of murders.
“Gun violence needs to stop now. Enough is enough! At the end of the day, a gun is a gun,” El-Barbarawi added. “I’m sick and tired of now knowing who I might never see again. Put the guns down!”
Meanwhile, less than a mile south on First Avenue — part of which had been blocked off by police to accommodate the East students — a crowd of students at Proviso Math and Science Academy spilled out onto the school’s Roosevelt Road-facing property and chanted.
“Enough is Enough,” they yelled. “We call BS.” “No more, guns!”
Proviso Math and Science Academy students during the March 14 walkout. | Courtesy Michelle Mireles/Facebook
Maddy Norton, a PMSA student who helped organize that school’s walkout, said that she hoped the demonstration sent a signal to elected officials indicating that “they know we won’t forget about these events and we will hold them accountable in the future.
“Many of us will be able to vote soon,” she said, “and we have the opportunity to make the changes we need in our government. We are the future and we will change it for the greater good.”
At Proviso West High School in Hillside, the focus of students was also closer to home. Jaleel Anthony, one of the organizers of the demonstration, railed against what he described as the school’s unsafe environment — as District 209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez stood mere inches away, patiently listening.
“Today … they made us take our belts off, take out all of our change and went through our bags thoroughly,” Anthony said. “Once we got inside, a second station scanned our ID and made sure we had on our uniform. But on a normal day they don’t do none of that. They don’t scan IDs or care about uniforms.”
The student protests garnered a significant amount of responses on Facebook, with most commenters voicing support for the students. Some people, however, said that the school day was not the time or place for a political protest.
Jaleel Anthony, pictured in red shirt and black sweater, with his fellow Proviso West students on March 14. | Courtesy Jaleel Anthony
“Love you all for standing up to support the demand for common sense gun control,” wrote one person underneath a video published to the social media site on Wednesday of the Proviso East demonstration. “You are the future and you make us proud and give us all hope. Stay strong.”
Another respondent, however, suspected that “half of” the students demonstration were “just walking out cause of not wanting to be in class not because of the cause [sic].”
Whatever their motivation, Hillside Police Chief Joseph M. Lukaszek commended students at Proviso West “who planned, and put in action, a peaceful demonstration with respect to an important issue facing our nation and communities throughout the Chicago area.
“These students faced many obstacles which were placed in their path which they overcame,” he stated. “As a community leader myself, I am proud to say Proviso West High School students did a fantastic job today.” VFP
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