Students protesting guns Saturday Credit: Reader/Ashley Mizuo

Thousands of people marched through the city and gathered at Union Park on the near west side Saturday to protest gun violence—a problem that is especially personal for Khadijah Benson.

Benson, a senior at Prosser Career Academy, was one of the last people to see her friend Nico before he was shot in the summer of 2014 while they were walking to a corner store to buy a snack.

“I went over to him and put his head in my lap,” Benson said Saturday. “It is true when they say you can see the life leave from someone’s eyes.”

Benson added: “I refuse to let his death go in vain. We need real change and we’re demanding it today.”

She led a “die-in” outside John H. Stroger Hospital before the March for Our Lives event. Benson and about 100 students laid down on the ground in silence outside the hospital, where many victims of gun violence get treatment.

“This die-in is to represent the lives we lost in Chicago and Baltimore,” Benson said. 

Khadijah BensonCredit: Reader/Ashley Mizuo

The students were members of GoodKidsMadCity, a coalition of inner-city students in Chicago and Baltimore that advocates for resources and policy changes to stop gun violence on the streets.

The students, mainly from the south and west sides, wore black hoodies that said “Good Kids Mad City.” They held signs that read “Violence is a symptom of poverty” and “Black Lives Matter.”

The students also chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

After Benson’s speech, Reverent Robin Hood of North Lawndale shared some words of prayer and encouragement.

“We are here, different nationalities, races, creeds, and colors saying enough is enough,” Hood said.

GoodKidsMadCity also made demands, including better access to mental health-care facilities, reinvestment in communities of color, and more after-school programs to keep children off the streets.