Massive Protest Against Gun Violence Closes Chicago Highway

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner sparred on Twitter over the response to the protest.

A massive rally against gun violence clogged a major highway in Chicago on Saturday.

Organized by the coalition ChicagoStrong, thousands of protesters streamed onto the Dan Ryan Expressway late in the morning, shutting all five northbound lanes of the route.

The protesters called for action to halt continuing violence in the city. There were 252 homicides and 1,100 shootings in the first six months of this year, according to CBS, largely in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods. Activists are demanding stiffer gun laws, as well as more jobs and resources, and better education in hard-hit neighborhoods.

Today we got their attention,” Rev. Michael Pfleger told ABC 7 Chicago. Pfleger, a key organizer of the protest, called for an “aggressive plan” from civic leaders and politicians to address the violence. Without one, “we get ready for [more] civil disobedience,” he added.

“When people keep ignoring you, you take it up a notch,” Pfleger said. “We are going to continue to take it up a notch until we get responses.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, who linked arms with Pfleger at the protest, said the city still maintains “ghetto borders,” actual or imagined, designed to keep “guns and drugs in — and jobs and schools out.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner sparred over how the protesters would be treated. Rauner’s office had warned that demonstrators would be arrested if they failed to stick to just two northbound lanes of the expressway — which Emanuel opposed.

Rauner called on Emanuel in a tweet to “take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos.” The mayor responded on Twitter, calling the march a “peaceful protest” and told the governor to “delete your account.”

There were no reports of arrests by Saturday afternoon, according to ABC.

The march was hailed by Parkland school shooting survivors and anti-gun activists Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg.

Pfleger said the winners of the day were the people who turned out in droves, “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 all to come together and say we want peace now.” 

ChicagoStrong is calling for Rauner to sign SB 337, a bill that expands the rules for gun dealers and requires state police to make a “reasonable” effort to make data on gun crimes public to more effectively battle illegal gun sales, PBS reported. In March, Rauner vetoed similar legislation.