CHICAGO (AP) — Protesters planning to shut down a major Chicago interstate on Saturday say they’re trying to increase pressure on public officials to address the gun violence that’s claimed hundreds of lives in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
There’s also a historical significance to marching along the stretch of Interstate 94 known as 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.
It was the kind of racial and economic segregation that still exists in Chicago today.
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.
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.”
Hundreds and possibly thousands of people, including other clergy, residents and community leaders, are expected to join the march, despite police warnings that any pedestrian who enters the expressway faces arrest and prosecution.
Illinois State Police, which has jurisdiction over expressways, said the march could put lives in “grave danger,” including protesters, motorists and people needing access to emergency services who may be blocked or delayed.
“This call to protest on the Dan Ryan, however well-intentioned, is reckless,” Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said.
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.”