Protest organizers have planned to block a stretch of the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago on Saturday in a demonstration against gun violence in their community.
In just the first six months of 2018, Chicago police have reported at least 1,100 shootings and more than 250 homicides, which represents a slight decrease over the same period last year.
Civil rights activists are targeting what they believe are systemic issues that have resulted in sustained violence and poverty within minority communities. That message began in the selection of the protest site, according to Fox News.
The freeway, which includes parts of both Interstate 90 and Interstate 94, was a local symbol of the city’s racial segregation a half-century ago.
Organizers of Saturday’s demonstration say reverberations from those racist policies are still being felt today in black communities around Chicago.
According to Rev. Michael Pfleger, who is leading the march, protesters will be making a series of demands to address the high levels of poverty and violent crime.
The Roman Catholic priest says he has long advocated for the same ideals — namely more job opportunities, better schools and stricter gun control — for years. This weekend’s demonstration, he said, represents a community’s belief that its voice had been ignored.
“When people keep ignoring you, you take it up a notch,” he said.
If their concerns are not addressed with Saturday’s march, Pfleger said activists will “continue to take it up a notch until we get responses.”
He said as many as several thousand protesters are expected to show up for the march, explaining that he will be joined by other local religious and community leaders.
Plenty of others, including the city’s law enforcement officials, are opposed to the method of the protest.
Illinois State Police responded to the protest by blocking two lanes of the expressway and allowing traffic to continue in the passing lanes, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
— kathychaney (@kathychaney) July 7, 2018
Before protesters arrived, Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz warned them that they would be putting their lives in “grave danger” by participating in the planned shutdown.
“The call to protest on the Dan Ryan, however well-intentioned, is reckless,” he said.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner previously stated that the protest would be held on the shoulder of the freeway, pursuant to an agreement that was “negotiated and approved by all stakeholders.”
Pfleger responded on Twitter, accusing the Republican governor of lying and claiming no such agreement had been reached.
I'm told that Gov. Rauner put out a statement that we had come to an agreement that we would walk on the shoulder of the road….that Mr. GOVERNOR is a LIE…No AGREEMENT HAS BEEN MADE
— Fr. Michael Pfleger (@MichaelPfleger) July 7, 2018
“I’m told that Gov. Rauner put out a statement that we had come to an agreement that we would walk on the shoulder of the road….that Mr. GOVERNOR is a LIE…No AGREEMENT HAS BEEN MADE,” he wrote.
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