On Thursday at 4 p.m., a protest group plans to shut down a stretch of North Lake Shore Drive for an anti-violence march to Wrigley Field. We don’t know how many people will participate, but the group’s threat to snarl rush hour traffic already has accomplished one goal: to be heard, and taken seriously.
Thursday evening will be busy in Chicago, with an evening Cubs game at Wrigley Field and Lollapalooza in Grant Park. Anyone planning to be out and about on the North Side or trying to commute home should consider taking public transportation or an alternate route, and bring some patience.
Yes, this march — assuming it does occur — will frustrate and annoy many Chicagoans. It risks alienating people. By design.
Participants will rally to demand safer, more hopeful communities on the South and West sides with better schools and more job opportunities. In essence, they’ll be marching in envy of the neighborhoods that will surround them as they proceed.
If they held their demonstration at, say, the quiet corner of South Laflin and 77th Street, who would notice? What’s more, protest organizers say they won’t coordinate with city officials to mitigate traffic headaches because they are demonstrating against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership. “Did Dr. King talk strategy with Bull Connor?” is how the Rev. Gregory Livingston put it, referring to the Alabama lawman who in the 1960s directed fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights marchers in Birmingham.
We want the Chicago protesters to stay safe, and we don’t advocate that they break the law. We do hope their message gets a wider audience over an extended period of time — as in, during the unfolding campaigns for mayor and City Council.
If you made a list of the major challenges facing Chicago — the problems that hold the city back from being its best self — you’d have to include many of the issues protest organizers cite, including: gun violence and mistrust of police; lack of economic opportunity in impoverished neighborhoods; the need to improve Chicago Public Schools. Of course, the protest leaders put their spin on those topics, including calls for the resignation of Emanuel and police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
But what we’re looking at here is an example of community members pressing City Hall for results. And whaddya know, Chicagoans will go to the polls on Feb. 26 in city elections. Imagine the implications across this city if more and more citizens demand action on chronic crises on which many candidates don’t have much to say.
Chicago needs more voices impatient with gun violence, mediocre schools and economic disparities between communities. Chicago also needs residents from all neighborhoods to help hold the city to its promise to reform policing, and then get involved in the fight against crime by supporting cops on the beat.
The more Chicagoans engage and push for positive changes, the more this next election becomes a referendum on ways to make Chicago a more successful, livable city for all residents. We count 10 challengers who want to defeat Emanuel. Every City Council seat will be up for election.
We’ve been writing about the reluctance of many candidates to speak about much more than their pet issues. We want all the candidates to bring their A-games, with ideas to reduce shootings and homicides, revitalize struggling neighborhoods, improve the city’s financial condition, continue the turnaround of CPS. Then voters will decide.
Chicagoans can wait and hope for the best — or they can demand better. That quest for solutions is what elections are about. It’s also the message of Thursday’s protest.
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