Thousands Protest Chicago Gun Violence By Shutting Down Historic Freeway

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As crime in Chicago slowly decreases, its residents continued to push for stricter gun laws and safe streets by shutting down one of the city’s biggest highways.

The protest kicked off Saturday (July 7) along the Dan Ryan Expressway lead by community activists and Rev. Michael Pfleger. Rev. Jesse Jackson also had a hand in the protest as the group demanded jobs, better schools and most importantly, stronger gun laws.

Since reaching a 20-year high in 2016, the Chicago Tribune reports the city faced 252 homicides and 1,100 shootings so far this year. Out of the reported 1,378 victims of gun violence, 61 have been 15 or younger.

Pfleger and Jackson have pointed out a majority of the crimes have occurred in low-income neighborhoods and questioned why resources or resolutions haven’t been put into place to change the issue. Jackson also pointed out the need to protest on a major highway after their previous protests in the concentrated areas went unnoticed.

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“Nonviolent demonstration is sometimes the only way to get the attention that will help change things,” Jackson said. “I’m perfectly willing to be arrested to bring attention to this crisis. Stopping traffic is less damaging than the shooting and the killing and the jailing.”

“The ones that won today are the people because the people are showing up,” Rev. Pfleger said to reporters. “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.”

The Dan Ryan Expressway has an awry history. The Star Tribune reports how many residents believed the bridge was built in the 1960s to create a divide between the white and black communities. It’s also been a hub for protesters to bring awareness to police killings of people of color.

Residents also slammed Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the lack of assistance in rebuilding crime-filled areas. Activist Jedidiah Brown shared with reporters how their support of the protest changes the meaning of the march.

“You don’t thank your oppressors, first of all. And the resources they’re fighting for are controlled by Democrats,” he said of Rev. Pfleger thanking Mayor Emanuel but slamming Gov. Rauner during the protest.

“If Rahm Emanuel wanted to provide funding, he could,” he added. “If you want Democrats in power, that’s fine. But to thank one and call the other a liar, it’s disingenuous. I have angst against them both but if you’re going to lead our people, lead them in fairness.”

No arrests have been reported at the march.