While the number of Chicago’s gun-violence victims has been decreasing in the past year, the level of violence remains staggering, affecting thousands of families each year, particularly in the city’s African American communities.
So, protesters stepped it up a notch by temporarily shutting down a major expressway on a busy summer weekend. On Saturday morning, demonstrators led by civil rights warriors Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister and former politician, marched on the Dan Ryan Expressway on the city’s south side.
As ABC News points out:
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.
Among the demands made by protest organizers are stronger gun laws, better schools, and more jobs and resources, ABC reported.
“When people keep ignoring you, you take it up a notch,” Pfleger said earlier this week, according to the news network. “We are going to continue to take it up a notch until we get responses.”
“Nonviolent demonstration is sometimes the only way to get the attention that will help change things,” Jackson said, the Chicago Tribune reported. “I’m perfectly willing to be arrested to bring attention to this crisis. … Stopping traffic is less damaging than the shooting and the killing and the jailing.”
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who lost his 15-year-old grandson to gun violence in 2016, also participated in the march, which took over about a mile and a half stretch of the highway.
On Twitter, Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg urged followers to get the hashtag #DanRyanShutDown trending.
Initially, IL State Police had threatened to arrest protesters, but negotiations held throughout the week ended with both state and Chicago police reluctantly agreeing to accompany the marchers and refrain from making arrests. That agreement seems to have been reached at the last minute on Saturday, although Pfleger disputed the version of events put forth by authorities.
“When they say, ‘Enough is enough,’ they mean enough is enough,” one protester told WGN News. “We can’t take it anymore.”
After the demonstration ended peacefully around 12:30 p.m., Pfleger declared, “The people of Chicago just won today.”
At least 1,378 people have been shot so far this year in Chicago, the Tribune reported. Sixty-one of them were aged 15 and under. According to ABC, 252 gun-related homicides were committed in the first six months of 2018. While the number of shootings has dropped from a two-decade high in 2016, the statistics remain daunting and depressing. Most have occurred in black and low-income neighborhoods, ABC said.
Pfleger promised to continue pressuring city officials and IL Gov. Bruce Rauner to take action.
“Today was the attention-getter, but now comes the action,” Pfleger said.