Thousands Shut Down Chicago Highway to Protest Gun Violence

Protestors shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway during an anti-gun violence protest on Saturday
Photograph: Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of Chicago protesters shut down a major highway on Saturday to oppose gun violence and call for stronger gun laws.

After an hour-long standstill, police announced they were shutting down all northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway to allow protesters to march on the road.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s police superintendent had voiced support for the protest, which was led by the Rev Michael Pfleger, the charismatic Catholic priest heading a largely African American church in one of the South Side neighborhoods hard-hit by gang violence.

Illinois state police have jurisdiction over the interstate, and had threatened to arrest anyone who stepped on to the entry ramp.

But protesters were allowed on to several lanes of highway on Saturday as corrections department buses waited alongside. Protestors chanted “shut it down.”

Pfleger, the Rev Jesse Jackson and Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were walking side-by-side among them.

After long negotiations between police and march leaders, the protest was eventually allowed to take over the whole highway northbound and proceed.

Daniel Blalock, 35, said had been willing to get arrested if necessary: “I didn’t come here planning to go home. I want peace, just peace. It’s going to take a long time but this is the first step.”

Shortly before the march began, Illinois’s governor, Bruce Rauner, said that Pfleger and other organizers had agreed to limit their demonstration to the highway shoulder, without taking over the road. In a tweet, Pfleger called the assertion a “LIE” and said the protest would go on as planned.

Later in the day, Rauner called the shutdown “unacceptable.” The Republican said in a tweet Saturday that he was “disappointed” in Emanuel, and called on him to “take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos.”

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Kari Lydersen