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Children's March Downtown Aims To Teach Kids How To Protest

 Hawkeye Pirtle (foreground) and Kelsey Bentrem (background, left to right), Calla Norsman, Ava Baldassari and Kiran Matthews are organizing a Children's March to empower young people like themselves.
Hawkeye Pirtle (foreground) and Kelsey Bentrem (background, left to right), Calla Norsman, Ava Baldassari and Kiran Matthews are organizing a Children's March to empower young people like themselves.
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Courtesy Kimberly Keith

DOWNTOWN — A group of middle-school students from Old Town took part in the Chicago Women's March on Chicago earlier this year, where they got a lesson in activism.

When they got back to Catherine Cook School in Old Town, they started to organize activities on their own — culminating with their biggest event yet: a Children's March this weekend that they hope will take over Downtown streets in the same fashion as the Women's March and the March for Science.

The students plan to start their demonstration Saturday with a rally at Daley Plaza before marching in The Loop. The event has been dubbed the Chicago Children's March for the Future.

Children, along with their families and friends, can come and support whatever issues they're passionate about, but organizers have three focuses: equal rights, protection for the environment and a quality education for everyone.

"In our nation’s history, we have definitely witnessed discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so we are taking this opportunity to stand up for what is right and empower other young people to possibly do the same," said organizer Calla Norsman, 12, of Wicker Park.

Calla and the other students planning the march were inspired by protests near and far: They all went to the Women's March on Chicago, which drew a crowd of an estimated 250,000 people. And in class at school, they learned about the Children's March on Birmingham in 1963, when schoolchildren led a Civil Rights march despite being arrested and harassed.

Stirred by what they'd seen and learned about, the students created the Student Activism Organization at the school. They took part in trash pickups, said organizer Hawkeye Pirtle, 12, of The Loop, and as the end of the semester nears they're planning to meet up outside of school to continue their activism work.

But the Children's March is their biggest project, and they've been getting help and support from other students while setting it up. Their peers have passed out flyers, even taking them to other schools so as many students as possible can learn about the march.

"Adults say children’t can’t do a lot of things and they may be lazy or just they don’t care," Hawkeye said. "We say that we can do it and that we are passionate about issues."

More than 100 people have RSVP'd to the march so far, and many people have reached out to the organizers on social media to say the march is "amazing," Calla said.

"I believe all children have a voice and that we are just as powerful," said organizer Kelsey Bentrem, 11, of Lakeview. "Our future is shaped by all this children and future generations to come, and they should all have the right to have a great education, equal rights and they should have a great environment to live in."

The rally begins 10 a.m. Saturday at Daley Plaza. At 11 a.m., attendees will march through the Loop and back to Daley Plaza. Families and friends of children are welcome.