Gabby Giffords joins Parkland activists at Chicago rally kicking off teens' 'Road to Change' initiative

The Chicago rally kicked off the “March for Our Lives: Road to Change” tour.

June 16, 2018, 3:16 AM

Gabby Giffords joined survivors from the Stoneman Douglas shooting at a rally and march in Chicago Friday -- the first event in the young activists' new push to take their voter-turnout initiative on the road.

Friday night's event kicked off the teenagers' tour, called “March for Our Lives: Road to Change,” that will encourage young people to register and vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

The students behind the "March for Our Lives" movement plan to make 75 stops across the country.

Parkland student organizer Cameron Kasky poses with former Rep. Gabby Giffords during the peace march on Friday, June 15, 2018.
Parkland student organizer Cameron Kasky poses with former Rep. Gabby Giffords during the peace march on Friday, June 15, 2018.
Twitter/@cameron_kasky

Besides Giffords -- a gun violence survivor and former congresswoman -- other high-profile activists who joined the teenagers in Chicago Friday included Jennifer Hudson and Chance the Rapper.

Hudson, a Chicago native, sang "Amazing Grace" at Friday's rally. Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed in a 2008 shooting. Her former brother-in-law was convicted of the murders in 2012.

"One thing my mother always taught us is you take care of home first," Hudson told the crowd Friday. "Stay positive and know that there is so much more to life than the block you live on."

In the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff, students including Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg organized a youth-led movement to push for gun reform that spread nationwide. The largest event so far was the March 24 March for Our Lives rally, which took place in Washington, D.C., and cities throughout the nation.

"Over the summer we're going to key congressional districts ... we're basically trying to promote the largest youth voter turnout ever in the history of the United States," Hogg told ABC News' "Nightline" earlier this month. "And making sure the kids that are affected by this most are able to vote on these issues."

PHOTO: Marjory Stoneman Douglas students hold a press conference on June 4, 2018 at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas students hold a press conference on June 4, 2018 at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla.
Taimy Alvarez/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Newscom

Hogg, who is taking a gap year before college, plans to spend his entire summer traveling to boost voter turnout among young people and focus on issues he believes all Americans can identify with.

“The best way to prevent so many bad things is well-educated voting,” he added. “We have to make sure that the people that are in power that refuse to take action on this are no longer in power."

Cameron Kasky, one of the Parkland student organizers, shared a photo of the crowd gathered for the peace march on Friday, June 15, 2018.
Cameron Kasky, one of the Parkland student organizers, shared a photo of the crowd gathered for the peace march on Friday, June 15, 2018.
Twitter/@Cameron_Kasky

The Parkland survivors joined students from Chicago's West and South sides for the rally outside St. Sabina Church. The church's priest, Father Michael Pfleger, spoke to the crowd as well.

"I think there's a different movement in Chicago. Young people are impatient, unfiltered. One message I keep hearing over and over again: 'We'll out live you.' They're determined to make our children safe," Pfleger told Chicago ABC station WLS.

Giffords has advocated for stricter gun control measures since she was shot in January 2011 at a political event in Tucson, Arizona. The gunman killed six people and injured 19, including Giffords, who was shot in the head at close range. Giffords returned to Congress later that year, but resigned in January 2012 to focus on her recovery. She and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, started a nonprofit to combat gun violence following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

PHOTO: Cameron Kasky, center, speaks during a news conference, June 4, 2018, in Parkland, Fla.
Cameron Kasky, center, speaks during a news conference, June 4, 2018, in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP

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