Dan Ryan Expressway shut down by anti-violence march; Rauner, Emanuel spar over protest

Sunday, July 8, 2018
EMBED <>More Videos

VIDEOS: Dan Ryan Expressway shut down by anti-violence march led by Father Pfleger

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of protesters shut down all five northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway Saturday for an anti-violence march.

Protesters, led by Father Michael Pfleger, began making their way onto the Dan Ryan near 79th Street at about 10:18 a.m., carrying banners demanding common sense gun laws, community resources, better schools, jobs and economic development.

Protesters later became stalled near 76th Street for about an hour, with protesters shouting, "Shut it down." Personnel with Illinois State Police, Chicago police and the Illinois Department of Transportation initially blocked protesters from blocking the two left lanes, keeping them open for traffic.

At about 11:30 a.m., protesters negotiated with authorities to shut down all northbound lanes for the protest march and began moving again. Earlier, Governor Bruce Rauner's office had earlier warned that anyone going across the barrier would be arrested, but no arrests have been reported.

At around noon, some of the protesters began making their way off the Dan Ryan at 67th Street. Many protesters shouted "thank you" to the police officers as they left the expressway. At about 12:40 p.m., Illinois State Police reopened all northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan.

"The ones that won today are the people because the people are showing up. When they saw this many people out here, black and white and brown, young and old, saying we're tired of the damn violence in Chicago. We want the governor, the mayor, the elected officials and the community to all come together and say we want peace now," Pfleger said.

Saturday morning, Rauner's office had said it had negotiated with stakeholders of the march to limit it to the shoulder of the expressway. Father Pfleger said that the statement from the governor was a lie and that they were coming to shut down the expressway.

"First you lied on us. Then you tried to obstruct us. Make up your mind," Pfleger said.

He said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson got involved and negotiated with state authorities to shut down the whole expressway.

After the protest, Governor Rauner called the protest "unacceptable" and said, "We had clear parameters that allowed the protestors to be heard while respecting law and order."

Governor Rauner also lashed out at Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling on him to, "take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos."

Mayor Emanuel responded on Twitter saying, "It was a peaceful protest. Delete your account."

A mayoral spokesman said in a statement, "The mayor's hope is that today's march may make someone realize they shouldn't pick up a gun to settle a dispute, and if that happens the peaceful march the governor called 'chaos' will unquestionably be worth it."

Gov. Rauner also took to Twitter to thank law enforcement for their efforts during the march.

Some children among the protesters used chalk to write, "Love" and "Enough is enough" on the roadway of the Dan Ryan.

Cook County Commissioner and Congressional candidate Chuy Garcia was among the protest marchers.

"I think there is a clear message being sent across the country and that is that we live in a state of emergency in Chicago, that the deaths on a daily basis of young people in particular, is not acceptable, that there is a dire need to invest in the poorest communities in Chicago," Garcia said.

The march has drawn praise from Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, who are survivors of the school shooting Parkland, Florida.

Protesters arrived from all over Chicago at St. Sabina Saturday morning to board buses heading to the Dan Ryan. .One 19-year-old woman said she was a victim of gun violence just four months ago.

"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," said Katherine Pisabaj.

Many Chicago police officers and officials with the Illinois State Police were on hand to ensure safety of the crowd.

Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent Johnson both have shared their support for this movement, meant to draw attention for more community investment.