54 arrested after protest blocks I-190 near Chicago O'Hare Airport, Loop march stops traffic

Monday, April 15, 2024
54 arrests made after protest blocks I-190, Loop march stops traffic
Dozens were arrested after pro-Palestinian protesters blocked the roadway entering into Terminal 1 at O'Hare and later halted traffic downtown.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens were arrested Monday after pro-Palestinian protesters blocked the roadway entering into Terminal 1 at O'Hare Airport and later halted traffic downtown.

Friends and supporters waited outside Area Five police headquarters later Monday for the 40 people arrested to be released.

Those arrested included 31 women and nine men, ages 19-43, according to Chicago police.

At one point Monday morning, the pro-Palestinian protesters completely blocked access to Terminal 1 at the airport, and they blocked all lanes on westbound Interstate 190.

Traffic came to a complete standstill right in the middle of rush hour at one of the busiest airports in the country. Chopper 7 flew above a miles-long backup for people heading into O'Hare.

"Enough is enough. The U.S. government has given us no choice but to disrupt business as usual," Simone Tucker said.

The demonstrators chose April 15 because it's tax day in the U.S. Their objective is to bring attention to the war in Gaza and support Palestinians.

Israel's military chief says Israel will respond to Iran's weekend missile strike. But he has not elaborated on when and how.

For hundreds of air travelers, however, the point of the protest was lost amid their frustration with trying to catch their flights.

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Several spoke as they got out and walked from the interstate to their terminals, luggage in hand.

"I understand people have the freedom to do what they want, but, when it starts impacting me personally, it's kind of an issue," frustrated traveler Mike said.

One woman walked, carrying her child.

"This is the last thing we wanna be doing," she said.

In Chicago, the protesters spent a few hours in a police vehicle, hands bound together with plastic ties, before being processed and released.

"We made our point. We stood in solidarity with our comrades in Palestine, and we disrupted business as usual," Tucker said.

Those arrested were expected to be released soon, and were charged with misdemeanors. They're due in court at a later date.

On Monday afternoon, another pro-Palestinian protest happened downtown.

"Injustice! Injustice all over the world. Everyone deserves to be free," said demonstrator Amna Hassan.

Dozens were near Clark and Adams streets about 4:30 p.m. in the Loop. They said they would not move from the roadway until all of those arrested earlier Monday were released.

As the large group carved a flag-led course through city streets, police cut them off at the pass, blocking protesters along Adams Street.

"It's terrible the way the cops are blocking us off from marching. We haven't had this issue before. We're out here every weekend. This is the fist time they've reacted like this," said demonstrator Javiar Vinuela.

Passionate calls for freedom devolved into chaos as police clashed with protesters and punches were thrown as the crowd shoved and wrestled in streets.

Commuter traffic screeched to a halt along Wacker Drive, first for prayers and as demonstrators refused to cede the intersection at rush hour, officers seized their speakers and physical scuffles ensued.

There appeared to be some heated exchanges between protesters and police, and some people were seen being taken away in handcuffs.

By about 6 p.m., protesters had shut down Upper Wacker Drive in both directions at LaSalle Street.

Police said 14 people were arrested during the Loop protest.

Among other things, protesters have called for an immediate cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

"Our families are dying. Our people are dying. Our families have been displaced multiple times," said Deanna Othman with American Muslims for Palestine Chicago. "We will not stop until there is a permanent, unconditional cease-fire, until the United States halts military funding to Israel."

Anti-war protesters have demonstrated in Chicago near daily since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people. Israeli warplanes and ground troops have conducted a scorched-earth campaign on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Sarah van Loon, regional director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Chicago, said in a statement, "Whatever point these protesters were trying to make was lost on the thousands of people massively inconvenienced by this woefully misguided demonstration. There is a time and place for everything, including a ceasefire. That can happen in Gaza once Hamas releases all the hostages, lays down its arms, and is prevented from having a role determining the future of Gaza. Perhaps these protesters should direct their frustration at Hamas, for rejecting yet another proposal that could lead to a ceasefire. Performative charades like this do nothing to advance the cause of peace."

While the Monday morning protest was going on, a United Airlines spokesperson said a flight from Chicago to Washington, "returned safely to Chicago, after a non-credible threat was found written on a lavatory mirror."

The Chicago protests on Monday were some of dozens in several countries around the world.

Pro-Palestinian protesters also shut down the Golden Gate Bridge Monday morning.

There were similar protests in places like Philadelphia, San Antonio and Oregon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.