An estimated 1,000 students at Evanston Township High School jammed the stands at the school’s football stadium Wednesday morning to participate in the nationwide student protest against guns.

Chanting “NRA go away,” they poured out of the school at 10 a.m. and crossed Church Street from the main campus as police blocked off traffic as a safety measure.

For nearly 30 minutes, they kept coming, as adult supporters stood by and applauded.

Once all the seats in the stadium were filled, they lined the fences and hooted approval as speakers, led by Student Senate President Emma Stein, called for mandatory background checks, mental health assessments, restrictions on the sale of assault rifles, prohibitions on concealed and open carry permits, abolishing sales of bumpstocks, and additional restrictions on gun permits.

Emma Stein, ETHS senior and president of the school’s Student Senate

One speaker noted that since the Columbine shootings in 1999, at about the same time that many of the students were born, more than 25 mass shootings have occurred in this country while little effort has been made by legislators at both the state and federal levels to deal with the resulting tragedies.

Another noted that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, to boos from the crowd, had just vetoed anti-gun legislation passed by the state legislature.

After the speeches, the students were urged to use their cell phones to call politicians to let their views be known.  A list of their telephone numbers had been handed out to them as they entered the field.

When the protest ended, many of the students returned to the school to resume their classwork.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Understanding the Issues
    My child told me yesterday that students in her class were planning to protest. She said she wanted to join in. I told her: Protesting something you believe in strongly is awesome. However, if you want my blessing to protest anything, you need to educate yourself first. I told her that she needed to be able to define current gun laws, gun terminology(i.e. “assault rifle, semi-automatic, automatic, bump stock”), as well as the history/rationale for Second Amendment. She also needed to be able to identify at least 3 pros and cons for gun legislation- to basically understand both sides of the debate. I wanted her to know how different states have different laws/the correlated gun crime rate, what gun laws are in other countries/impact on crime, how changes of gun laws in other countries had impacted violence rates, and how the definition “mass shooting” used for statistical purposes has changed over time in some places. I offered to show her resources, such as newspapers and interviews with people on both sides of the debate. She also needed to be able to articulate an objective of the protest- a Instagram photo op to virtue signal instead of attending school is not a worthwhile objective.

    She declined, saying she wasn’t that interested in the topic. Fine- I told her then she needs to keep her body in class during the protests. Protesting something you don’t understand does not make you a hero. It makes you a follower. Allowing peer pressure to dictate your actions makes you an idiot.

    I would be curious how many students in these pictures could articulate any of the above points.

    1. You’re the better parent ?

      Did it not occur to you that by attending she would have learned something? Or that it would have been an impetus to become more engaged and informed?  My kids returned energized and engaged and we had a great discussion over dinner about the issues. Your loss. Your position is insufferable.

      1. Yes.

        Ridiculing the idea that a child must be educated on a topic before ditching school to protest for it is incredibly ridiculous. Kids go to school to learn. If they leave school to protest, it should be because they have fully educated themselves on a topic and feel that it is a worthy personal cause.

        We also had a great discussion on this topic tonight- including how many students essentially knew nothing about the issue (many thought they were only doing a memorial walk), but left class anyways because they thought it would be fun, or their parents encouraged them to do it, or they felt pressured to go because everyone else was going.  All I can say is “baaa.”

        From what I hear, there was no debate or discussion at the protest. There was shouting of one side of the spectrum. For learning to take place, I feel one should be presented with multiple angles and then critically think. That’s not what happened at these protests.

        My family also had a good discussion over dinner about the issues- In particular, how people can be lead like sheep so easily to ignorant protest and how Evanston is place that doesn’t even want to consider the merits of differing viewpoints.

        Now that is insufferable.

        1. Wow if only people protesting
          Wow if only people protesting Abortion and calling themselves Pro-Life would attend several courses on women’s health and fully educating themselves on that subject before attending their protests, what a nicer discourse we would have. And if only people who love going to war for no real reason other than “patriotism” would really educate themselves on the issue as thoroughly as this, perhaps we would not be as involved in wars as we are. And maybe… just maybe… if people would study their American history before decrying how awful Unions are for the American worker, we would have more of them and stronger ones.

          1. That’s why kids go to school

            I agree with you.  Learning is the purpose of school. That’s why kids shouldn’t skip school to protest something unless they fully understand BOTH sides of an issue & are able to articulate their own educated opinion. Don’t we want our students to learn how to think critically? Parroting one side of a debate does not equal rational, independent thought. Sadly, that’s exactly what my child reports happpened.  Most students don’t know anything about the other side’s viewpoints,nor anything about gun laws, nor any other points I wrote above, only “me good, them bad.” These kids are being used by adult’s with an agenda. Quit, I think it 

    2. Please GET informed AND interested
      So proud. And the reason we made it on ABC World News Tonight is that students called their legislators. They did not just stand in silence. “Parent” if your child was too uninformed and too uninterested to learn the importance of this student movement then maybe, “Parent,” you should have taken this opportunity to make the word “Parent” into a verb, not just a noun, and help your child, and yourself, GET educated and interested in this very urgent, important issue.

    3. Responsible protesting

      Not that you need my approval but I congratulate you for insisting your child understand what the responsibilities of a protestor ought to be. Too few actually take those responsibilities seriously – if they think of them at all.  As for people who might accuse you of not doing your duty as a parent, and that your child might have “learned something” at the protest, I believe that as well intentioned as they believe they are, they would opt for your child to be the subject of peer pressure and recipient of indoctrination rather than in informed and open to discussion. 

      When people begin to think for themselves, rather than follow the crowd, they become more independent and able to challenge the ideology of the day – a threat to the status quo.  To some people that independence and the ability to think critically, to challenge, question, learn more than one side of an issue, and DISCUSS is insufferable.

  2. It looks a
    few students never made it to the field. 1,000 in the stands and 200 or so circling the field. Did 2,000 others remain in school or take off to better places. Nice to see those that attended were able to express their 1st Amendment Right but they should not get their expectations to high. The 2nd Amendment rights would need to changed. This could result is the rise of a dictatorship.

    A prohibitions on concealed and open carry would probably result in more shootings. It is generally a deterrent and saves lives.

    Background and mental health checks are both things I agree with but, as you see in Evanston, criminals and other bad people will still get guns illegally. Our EPD does a good job of finding these people and taking the weapons away

    Emma Stein and the people around her did a very good job, It was organized and respectful for the most part. It was much improved compared to other ETHS student protests that have occurred in the past. Emma deserves an award for planning a excellent event. This will look great when she gets into a great college later this year.

    Based on the description, I just wonder why about two-thirds of the students did not participate and miss out on an important event..

  3. Rise Up!

    Every humans right to peaceably assemble on full view. Leading by example kids. Nicely done.

    Now if only us so-called ‘adults’ took this as inspiration and became more fully involved in our local, state, federal, and world issues the world might indeed become a better place.

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