My guess is that, if you pay attention to the news with any sort of regularity, you know that Chicago is experiencing an epidemic of gun violence. This is not a novel piece of information.
You don’t need to be made aware of the problem — the media is doing quite a good job of that already, thank you. This is exponentially more true if you live in or around the Windy City itself.
So, on Saturday, liberal activists decided to draw attention to an issue that needed absolutely no attention by blocking off the northbound part of the city’s busy Dan Ryan Expressway — even though organizers had previously promised government officials they’d only block off part of it — in order to inconvenience travelers who have probably broken no gun laws in order to get people who are breaking gun laws to stop breaking gun laws.
I can’t possibly see how this could fail. Oh, and Jesse Jackson was involved, because of course he was.
“For weeks, the Rev. Michael Pfleger said his intention was to shut down the busy South Side expressway for a demonstration designed to focus a spotlight on crime, joblessness and poverty plaguing city neighborhoods,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “Chicago police urged him to use a neighborhood street instead of the interstate. Illinois State Police threatened arrests.
“The Saturday morning march kicked off with a compromise: Demonstrators in half the northbound lanes, traffic in the others, separated by a barrier of highway trucks, emergency vehicles and uniformed officers.
“But with semi-trucks crawling past the few thousand protesters crowded onto the expressway, Pfleger, the march’s chief organizer, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson stopped and reiterated their desire to fill all northbound lanes with chanting, drumming demonstrators. The priest from St. Sabina Catholic Church spoke with commanders at the scene, including Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 7, 2018
After roughly an hour, “with protesters pressing toward the police line and traffic squeezing by in single file,” police capitulated and agreed to shut the entire road down. In other words, this was an anti-violence protest using intimidation of police to stop violence. What’s wrong with this picture?
“We came out here to do one thing: To shut it down,” Pfleger said, according to the Tribune. “We came here to get their attention. Hopefully we got their attention. … Today was the attention-getter, but now comes the action.”
“This day is your day,” Jackson told demonstrators. “Our mission, shut the highway down, our mission, first-class schools … our mission, stop guns and drugs from coming in, and jobs going out.”
The blockade lasted about half an hour before traffic began moving again.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) July 7, 2018
Signs at the rally included banners that said “NO MORE DRUG WAR” and “NO GUNS,” as well as one that said “They Don’t Care About Us” with pictures of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat.
Oh, and speaking of that odd couple, they engaged in a Twitter war over how the protest was handled and the mayor’s endorsement of using the expressway as a venue.
“This is unacceptable,” Rauner tweeted. “We had clear parameters that allowed the protestors to be heard while respecting law and order. Instead, they chose instead to cause chaos.”
“I’m disappointed in the Mayor. There was an agreement in place,” Rauner continued. “I am calling on the Mayor to take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos. I will work with him in good faith and urge him to do his job so that the people of Chicago feel safe.”
Fifty minutes later, Emanuel responded: “It was a peaceful protest. Delete your account.” Yes, he really used “delete your account.”
When considering how to solve Chicago’s problems, perhaps one ought to first start with examining the caliber of the city’s leadership.
Now this isn’t to say that people oughtn’t be inconvenienced if an actual change could be effected. If it would end violence and joblessness in Chicago, by all means, block off the Dan Ryan Expressway. Block it off every weekend, as far as I’m concerned. Heck, bring some food trucks out there and park them on the shoulder and you can make this a thoroughly capitalist affair.
For the sake of argument, let me ask a few questions, though: Are you more informed about gun violence in Chicago than you were when the Dan Ryan Expressway was shut down? Do you think that anybody is? Do you know any of the specific aims of the protesters, other than “better schools,” “no guns” and “more jobs?” (Go, read the article at the Tribune and see if it makes anything clearer for you. I can almost guarantee you it won’t.) Do you think that anybody who didn’t share the aims of the marchers was somehow persuaded to the righteousness of their position? Do you think anyone in the traffic standstill had a Damascene road conversion to the ideology of the Revs. Jackson and Pfleger?
The only real publicity this generated was for the march’s organizers. I was only loosely familiar with Rev. Michael Pfleger (he’s the Barack Obama supporter who made headlines back in 2008 mocking Hillary Clinton in public, as CNN reported, among other things). And now I’m familiar with the fact he’s willing to shut down a highway for self-promotion under the flimsy pretenses of raising awareness for something everyone is already aware of.
Rev. Jackson’s use of popular movements for personal enrichment, meanwhile, has long been a matter of public record. The only coherent point I heard come out of Saturday’s action was that, according to CNN, marchers want “national common sense gun laws” — the same ones, presumably, that have worked so well in Chicago.
The march and the tactics used certainly didn’t put pressure on those responsible for the cycle of violence Chicago finds itself in: Gangs, poor civic leadership and cultural ambulance chasers who claim to “lead” those affected for their own political gain. The gangs were wholly unaffected, Chicago’s elected leaders got behind the protest for political gain (and even made hay of it by tweeting circa 2009 witticisms like “Delete your account”), and the cultural ambulance chasers were the ones at the fore of the march.
Yet, protester Clarita Bingley called the whole thing “beautiful.”
“We need to sit down and listen to everything of people and hear their needs, and listen without hollering at each other,” Bingley told the Tribune. “We need our children to have the same education as this child and that child, and then when they graduate, we need them to have the same opportunity to get those jobs.”
I appreciate the fact that Bingley’s pain is both real and acute; the same goes for everyone trapped in the miasmatic web of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. My heart goes out to all of them.
But stopping traffic to scream liberal bromides on camera is literally “hollering at each other.” Nothing that happened Saturday will get anyone a better education or a new job and nobody heard anything about the people or Chicago of their needs.
What happened on the Dan Ryan Expressway will only have a long-term benefit for the self-promoting charlatans behind it. While it may have temporarily sated the frustration of the literal rank and file present on Saturday, it will have no long-term effect on the trajectory of their lives — or how well-informed the world is about their plight.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.