As hundreds of anti-gun violence protestors marched along the Dan Ryan Expressway Saturday, dozens gathered in Chicago’s Millennium Park to show support for gun rights.
The student-led demonstration was part of the national March For Our Rights campaign, a counter to the March For Our Lives movement for advancing gun control policies. Both political efforts launched in response to the Parkland, Florida high school shooting in February.
Anthony Bartosiewicz, a 16-year-old high school student from Wheaton, said he coordinated the Chicago event to give the pro-gun community a voice. “The media has portrayed us as these violent people with blood on our hands — you know the whole shebang — and it’s a terrible thing and I just wanted to inspire the pro-gun people to speak their voice and try to be heard.”
Most of the guest speakers in attendance were fellow students from the Chicago suburbs. Collectively, they argued that the Second Amendment had the dual purpose to preserve the right to self-defense and to defend against tyranny, but they also dismissed calls for gun control laws.
“It is so contrary to the prevailing narrative that’s thrown at us by the media, academia and Hollywood on the sacred right to keep and bear arms to you that our weaponry was not only intrinsic to the American identity, but served a purpose other than taking out deer.”
Colin Fitzsimmons, a 13-year-old student activist from the northwest suburbs, said the idea that an armed citizenry can resist a tyrannical government has always appealed to him. “The facts are in. The best thing we can do for keeping people safe is to ensure more gun liberty in the U.S.,” he said.
But seasoned activists also appeared. Chicago-native Rhonda Ezell, who challenged the city’s prohibition of gun stores as a plaintiff in federal court, applauded the youth-led activism. “These young kids here they are the future. They are the future,” she said. “We have fought this fight, we have fought these battles. These cases have been fought. They have been won. The foundation has been laid. We are going to make good. We will not stand for tyranny from our government because if they do than they will take our lives.”
Being in a city known for strict gun laws, Bartosiewicz attempted to invite counter opinions to those in attendance or passersby, but no one accepted the offer. However, one man shouted criticisms, the group and the man came together in singing the national anthem.
While the three-hour planned event wrapped up after 60 minutes, Bartosiewicz said he was satisfied with how the participants conducted themselves and the attention the event garnered. “If we all come out next year and there are hundreds of us out here and we come to Millennium Park and we go to Daily Plaza and we leave and we leave the place nicer than before than how could we be these violent people?”