Anti-vi­o­lence rally closes high­way

Pro­test­ers call for au­thor­i­ties to help stop blood­shed

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - NATION / WORLD - By Sara Bur­nett Associated Press Chicago

Thou­sands of anti-vi­o­lence pro­test­ers marched along a Chicago in­ter­state on Sat­ur­day, shut­ting down traf­fic to draw at­ten­tion to the gun vi­o­lence that’s claimed hun­dreds of lives in some of the city’s poor­est neigh­bor­hoods and pres­sure public of­fi­cials to do more to stop it.

Marchers chanted, “Stop the killing,” and car­ried signs read­ing, “We need jobs,” and other mes­sages. Some stopped to scrawl on the road with chalk: “Enough is enough” and “Peace.” To­ward the front of the march the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Ro­man Catholic priest from the city’s South Side who or­ga­nized the protest; Chicago po­lice Supt. Ed­die John­son; and the Rev. Jesse Jack­son linked arms.

“The peo­ple won to­day be­cause the peo­ple showed up. They saw this many peo­ple out here, black and white and brown and young and old, and say­ing, ‘We’re tired of the damn vi­o­lence in Chicago,’” Pfleger said af­ter com­plet­ing the roughly 1.5-mile route.

“We want the gov­er­nor, the mayor, the elected of­fi­cials and the com­mu­nity all to come to­gether and say, ‘We want peace now.’”

The march took place along the north­bound lanes of In­ter­state 94, known as the Dan Ryan Ex­press­way, af­ter a roughly hour­long stand­off be­tween po­lice and the pro­test­ers. The ex­press­way was fully re­opened less than 90 min­utes later, af­ter the protest ended.

Illi­nois State Po­lice, which had warned ear­lier in the week that any pedes­trian en­ter­ing the ex­press­way would face ar­rest, said early Sat­ur­day that an agree­ment had been reached for pro­test­ers to march on a por­tion of the road­way. Of­fi­cers and ve­hi­cles lined up, form­ing a bar­rier to keep pro­test­ers in two north­bound lanes, al­low­ing some traf­fic to pass in other north­bound lanes.

But Pfleger and pro­test­ers in­sisted there was no agree­ment and that they would shut down the en­tire north­bound road­way, with Pfleger not­ing the city closes ma­jor roads for pa­rades and other oc­ca­sions. The crowd be­gan creep­ing into other lanes — a sit­u­a­tion Pfleger said had the po­ten­tial to be­come danger­ous.

Illi­nois State Po­lice, which has ju­ris­dic­tion over ex­press­ways, an­nounced around 11:30 a.m. that they were shut­ting down all north­bound lanes of the ex­press­way. Pro­test­ers then be­gan walk­ing north­bound along the route.

Illi­nois Gov. Bruce Rauner took to Twit­ter to call the shut­down “un­ac­cept­able,” say­ing there had been pa­ram­e­ters set to al­low pro­test­ers to march while “re­spect­ing law and or­der” but that pro­test­ers in­stead chose “chaos.” The Repub­li­can also said he was “dis­ap­pointed” in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“I am calling on the Mayor to take swift and de­ci­sive ac­tion to put an end to this kind of chaos,” Rauner wrote.

Emanuel, a Demo­crat, re­sponded in a tweet : “It was a peace­ful protest. Delete your ac­count.”

Pfleger said the next step is ac­com­plish­ing the ac­tual goal — an “ag­gres­sive plan” to ad­dress the vi­o­lence. Among the de­mands the pro­test­ers listed were more re­sources, jobs and bet­ter schools for their com­mu­ni­ties as well as stronger gun laws.

There’s a his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to march­ing along the Dan Ryan Ex­press­way — a road­way some be­lieve was built in the early 1960s to sep­a­rate white com­mu­ni­ties and poor, black ones. To the west of the new in­ter­state were Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox, and neigh­bor­hoods such as Bridgeport, home to then-mayor Richard J. Da­ley and his clan. To the east rose the Robert Tay­lor Homes, a high-rise public hous­ing com­plex that be­came no­to­ri­ous for its vi­o­lence.

Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-times via Associated Press

Thou­sands of anti-vi­o­lence pro­test­ers pour into the in­bound lanes of In­ter­state 94, known as the Dan Ryan Ex­press­way in Chicago on Sat­ur­day.

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