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Thousands rally for gun control as young activists call for action on school shootings

CHICAGO — Thousands rallied for gun control and marched through the Loop to send a message to lawmakers Sunday, less than a week after a mass shooting at a Parkland, FL high school left 17 dead.

Activists and advocates, parents and politicians were joined by a number of students and teachers who say they’re intent on taking their outrage to the ballot box.

The demonstration happened just five days after 17 students were killed and many others injured when a gunman using a semiautomatic weapon opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, FL.

In the crowd was Jacquie Algee, whose 19-year-old son Kenneth van Dorenson was killed in Chicago in 1995.

“We’re here to fight. We’re standing up. We’re here to make a difference,” Algee said.

A handful of counter-protesters showed up as well. One individual holding an American flag said as a member of the NRA he believes the Second Amendment must be protected. The only way to prevent future school shootings, he said, is to "fight fire with fire."

"If those teachers were armed, this would never happen,” he said.

Across the street, gun control advocate Alan Brunettin used the flag for the opposite message.

“The Second Amendment has been bastardized, it’s being used against us by the NRA largely, and I’ve got a big problem with certain people’s interpretation,” Brunettin said.

After the rally, protesters marched from federal plaza to Trump Tower, demanding action from the president and from Congress.

If anything distinguished this rally from similar demonstrations in recent years, it was the amount of young people participating. Among them, 17-year-old Olivia Stitley, who came to the rally with friends and family, and gave lawmakers a stark warning that the so-called "mass murder generation" won’t tolerate inaction any longer.

"No other American generation has experienced what we have experienced, and we’re fed up, because you shouldn’t be scared in a classroom. You shouldn’t be scared for your life," she said. "I think it’s absurd that nothing has been done. So many people have died, so many people are in danger and i think something needs to be done now."

Gun rights activists have routinely said that the immediate aftermath of a shooting is not the time for a debate about guns. But now a time for that debate has been set for March 24, when students are planning to stage a march on Washington, D.C. They're also planning a demonstration on April 20, when students say they will mark the 19th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School with a nationwide walkout from school.