Thousands of anti-violence protesters have shut down lanes on a major Chicago highway as part of a movement to increase pressure on public officials to address the gun violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in the city.
The Dan Ryan Expressway — a freeway that incorporates portions of Interstates 90 and 94 — was chosen for its historical significance, having been a symbol of racial segregation in the 1960s. ABC 7 Chicago reported that workers closed lanes on the highway but kept the left lanes open while the protesters marched. Video showed traffic moving slowly on the highway.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office said in a statement that a marcher who ignored the boundaries would be arrested and face prosecution.
Chicago police said the city saw 252 homicides and 1,100 shootings in the first six months of this year, a decrease from the same period last year. But those crimes have been heavily concentrated in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods.
“When people keep ignoring you, you take it up a notch. … We are going to continue to take it up a notch until we get responses.”
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and anti-violence activist on the city’s South Side who will lead Saturday’s march, said the protesters will carry a banner with a list of demands. They include: more resources, jobs, better schools and stronger gun laws — things Pfleger says they’ve been seeking for years.
“When people keep ignoring you, you take it up a notch,” Pfleger said. “We are going to continue to take it up a notch until we get responses.”
Pfleger and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who’s also leading the protest, argue they’ve already tried marching through neighborhood streets, outside churches and along downtown’s Michigan Avenue, and that nothing has changed.
Jackson said the city still has “ghetto borders” — real or imagined — designed to keep “guns and drugs in and jobs and schools out.”
Katherine Pisabaj told ABC 7 Chicago she was victim of gun violence and was marching in the protest.
“Everybody is affected and it shouldn’t be. That’s why I am glad that we’re all here, that we’re all trying to make a difference and that’s what matters. Hopefully the people in power listen to us so that everything can change and my nephews can grow up in a world that they don’t have to worry about experiencing a pain that I did,” she said.
Officers from Illinois State police and the Chicago Police Department would be at the scene to ensure safety.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.