Gun violence in the US

‘Today we got attention’: Anti-gun-violence protesters shut down Chicago motorway

‘Today we got their attention,’ Reverend Michael Pfleger said, sayying that the next step is an ‘aggressive plan’ to address the violence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2018, 3:25am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2018, 3:25am

Thousands of anti-violence protesters marched along a Chicago interstate on Saturday, shutting down traffic in an effort to draw attention to the gun violence that has claimed hundreds of lives and pressure public officials to do more to stop it.

Marchers chanted “Stop the killing” and carried signs reading “We need jobs” and other messages. Some stopped to scrawl on the road with chalk: “Enough is enough” and “Peace”.

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Toward the front of the march the Reverend Michael Pfleger, who organised the protest, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and the Reverend Jesse Jackson linked arms.

The march took place along the northbound lanes of Interstate 94, known as the Dan Ryan Expressway, after a roughly hour-long stand-off between police and the protesters.

Illinois State Police, which had warned earlier in the week that any pedestrian entering the motorway would face arrest, said early Saturday that an agreement had been reached for protesters to march on a portion of the roadway.

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Officers and vehicles lined up, forming a barrier to keep protesters in two northbound lanes, allowing some traffic to pass in other northbound lanes.

But Pfleger and protesters insisted there was no agreement and that they would shut down the entire northbound roadway, with Pfleger noting the city closes major roads for parades and other occasions.

The crowd began creeping into other lanes – a situation Pfleger said had the potential to become dangerous.

Illinois State Police, which has jurisdiction over motorways, announced around 11:30am that they were shutting down all northbound lanes of the motorway. Protesters then began walking northbound along a roughly 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometre) route.

“Today we got their attention,” Pfleger said afterward. He said the next step is accomplishing the actual goal – an “aggressive plan” to address the violence.

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Among the demands the protesters listed were more resources, jobs and better schools for their communities as well as stronger gun laws.

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 neighbourhoods 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.

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Chicago police said the city had 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 neighbourhoods.