Hundreds of protesters shut down Chicago freeway to draw attention to city’s homicide problem

Hundreds of protesters shut down Chicago freeway to draw attention to city’s homicide problem
Protesters shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway during an anti-violence protest in Chicago on July 7, 2018. (Jim Young/Getty Images)

Hundreds of protesters partially shut down a major freeway in Chicago on Saturday in what they called a cry to stop violence in the city.

The demonstrators marched across northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway, under the watchful eyes of police officers, according to an account by Reuters news. Some of them carried crosses, banged drums, or chanted slogans, including “Black Lives Matter!”

How bad is the crime?

According to stats compiled by the Chicago Tribune, 244 people have been killed in the city so far this year.

Homicides in Chicago, the third largest city in the U.S., fell by 16 percent last year. But the total still equaled more than the combined total of the nation’s two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles. Most of the victims are young, black men.

One of the organizers of the protest, Father Michael Pfleger, said in an earlier news conference: “This is not about just a march. This is not about just an interruption of traffic. This is about the violence in the city of Chicago.”

Going against the views of his police department and the Illinois state police, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday he supports allowing the demonstrators to march on the freeway, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

Earlier this week, Chicago’s first deputy police superintendent, Anthony Riccio, spoke against the protest, saying it is a potential public safety hazard.

Riccio said he sympathizes with the purpose of the peace march and understands that using disruption and inconvenience can bring maximum attention to the cause, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

But shutting down the freeway could has the unintended side effect of bringing more violence to gang-riddled neighborhoods, he said.

“We talked to the state police. They said it would have to be a complete shutdown of the expressway. They can’t do a partial or leave a lane open,” Riccio said.

What could be impacted?

“Emergency vehicles. Somebody who has a medical issue. Ambulances. Police cars. Fire trucks. We just think it’s a very dangerous idea,” Riccio said.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also weighed in on the issue, saying, “We support peoples’ right to demonstrate their First Amendment rights. We support that.So our mission at CPD is just to make sure that individuals that protest do it peacefully, and we keep them safe.”

He added: “Because we’ve dealt with [protests] so much as an organization, we understand that sometimes it has to be a game-time decision in terms of what you do and how you do it because you can make the best plans that you want to, and things will go a little differently. But just know we’ll be out there to make sure everybody’s safe.”

No arrests were reported as of mid-afternoon, according to reports.