Standing across the street from the Chicago Cubs’ bright red marquee, community activists said Tuesday they’re planning to bring the city’s North Side to a standstill next week to “redistribute the pain in Chicago.”
And that’s why they’re planning to shut down a stretch of North Lake Shore Drive during evening rush hour to make way for an anti-violence march that will wind its way to the fringes of Wrigley Field as the Cubs prepare for a night game there, organizers say. The late-afternoon march Aug. 2 could effectively shut down portions of the city as traffic already will be heavy with Lollapalooza getting underway in Grant Park.
“We are going down commercial strips and if people are upset about us disturbing their entertainment and their cafe life, human life is more important than recreation,” said the Rev. Gregory Livingston, one of the organizers. “We all need to recognize that.”
The march is expected to begin about 4 p.m. in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, starting near Diversey Avenue and continuing several blocks north near Belmont Avenue where protesters will exit the roadway. The group will eventually make its way west to Clark Street and then on to Wrigley Field. The goal of the protest is to draw attention to the city’s violence.
The protest march in many ways seems to be a rebuke of the city’s establishment from leaders of several organizations including the Coalition for a New Chicago, a social justice organization, and the Violence Interrupters. They have called for the resignations of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Livingston said.
“So on Aug. 2, everybody, we march against Rahm Emanuel,” Livingston said. “We march against Eddie Johnson. We march for consent decrees, and we march against empty lying promises.”
Emanuel and Johnson have not responded to a request for comment on demands that they step down.
And organizers said they won’t be asking city officials for permission to march on Lake Shore Drive or on the rest of the route. In fact, they’re preparing to be arrested.
Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for Chicago police, said in an email that department officials will be meeting with march organizers in the coming days to talk about the demonstration.
“CPD works very hard to protect freedom of speech and right for public demonstration while simultaneously balancing safety needs of the community,” Guglielmi said.
Asked whether the city might try stop the march, the mayor’s office didn’t respond directly to the question. Shannon Breymaier, a mayoral spokeswoman, wrote in an emailed response that the Chicago Police Department “regularly works with event organizers to keep the public safe, and, as always, our goal is to keep the community safe on public thoroughfares.”
Organizers started to plan next week’s march after Chicago police fatally shot Harith Augustus on July 14 in the South Shore neighborhood. The deadly shooting has sparked a series of protests that at times led to tense interactions with police.
Tio Hardiman, from the group Violence Interrupters, said they’ve been marching for years to end gun violence in the city to no avail. The group works to mitigate conflicts in Chicago neighborhoods to prevent bloodshed, Hardiman said. And they’ve decided to do it this time on the North Side to “redistribute the pain in Chicago.” Hardiman said he plans to carry a casket through the demonstration to represent gun violence victims.
Organizers aren’t sure if hundreds or thousands will join them next week.
“We are going to have enough to do what we need to do,” Livingston said. “And if it’s thousands, that would be great, but we are going to have enough. And who knows, the Lollapalooza crowd may take a break and join us.”
If the group manages to march on Lake Shore Drive, it would be the second protest this summer to shut down a major roadway in Chicago. Earlier this month, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side, led a demonstration on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
But don’t expect to see Pfleger, who took to social media to discuss the upcoming march, in the crowd next week. Pfleger told the Tribune he’s hesitant to participate because these organizers are calling for the mayor and the city’s top cop to resign. Johnson marched with Pfleger when he led the Dan Ryan shutdown. And the youth group Pfleger’s been working with is planning to meet with elected officials and candidates to see what policies could be changed that would address gun violence, better schools and more resources for the South and West sides of the city.
“It’s just a different focus than our focus,” Pfleger told the Tribune, adding: “We can change the names in offices, but if we don’t change the policy, then it’s just someone else enforcing it. The system is bad. So it’s not about Democrats or Republicans, it’s about who is willing to radically change the policies and the determination of funds to level the playing fields.”
Though Livingston and Hardiman said they did not attend the Dan Ryan shutdown, other organizers did. Still, leaders of next week’s march don’t want to be compared to the Dan Ryan shutdown — and one organizer was somewhat critical of it.
“I thought it was strategically not the best thing because the purpose of a demonstration and a march is to redistribute the pain so to be out on the Dan Ryan on a weekend at 10 o’clock in the morning, in a black neighborhood where all this is going on — I don’t feel like it was anything that was going to redistribute the pain,” Livingston said. “As you can see, already with the announcement of this march during a weekday, during rush hour, during rush traffic, during a Cubs game, it adds a whole different dimension in terms of our demands.”
The Chicago Cubs have a home game scheduled for 7:05 p.m. that day against the San Diego Padres. However, organizers for the march said they don’t intend to go into Wrigley Field. Julian Green, spokesman for the Chicago Cubs, said fans attending the game that day should avoid Lake Shore Drive and consider alternative routes.
“We’re looking forward to an exciting game against the Padres and will work with CPD to ensure all fans are able to enter and exit the ballpark safely and without interruption,” Green wrote in an email.
Chicago Tribune’s John Byrne contributed.
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