Protesters led by an activist Chicago minister plan to shut down the nation’s second busiest airport on Labor Day by blocking the primary highway leading into and out of O’Hare International.
The Rev. Gregory Livingston says Monday’s march along the Kennedy Expressway is an effort to highlight the violence and lack of educational and employment opportunities on the city’s South and West sides.
“We must end Chicago’s tale of two cities,” said Livingston, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church on the city’s West Side. “We will shut down O’Hare International Airport.”
Any disruption could cause major headaches for travelers headed home from holiday weekends. Major David Byrd, spokesman for the Illinois State Police, said authorities will not allow the protest to interrupt traffic.
Byrd said authorities had offered protesters alternative venues for the march, adding that he hoped no arrests would need to be made. But he provided no details on how marchers would be stopped.
“We are prepared for all contingencies,” he said.
Livingston has a list of demands ranging from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation to repurposing closed schools for businesses and other uses that stabilize neighborhoods.
He also wants economic investment on the South and West sides “commensurate” with spending on the North Side and downtown, legislation to encourage hiring of released inmates and resources for black-led anti-violence efforts.
“I’d would rather see my people marching on the expressways than dying in the streets,” Livingston tweeted Sunday.
Chicago tallied more than 1,400 murders and 6,200 shootings in 2016 and 2017. Still, there is a ray of hope: The 2018 murder count through August of 368 marks a 20 percent decrease from the 460 killings from January through August last year, the police department said.
“While incremental progress is being made, we have more work and ahead to continue to make Chicago safer,” CPD said in a weekend statement.
Livingston was among organizers of a rally Aug. 2 that briefly shut down a section of Lake Shore Drive in an affluent neighborhood of the North Side, snarling Wrigley Field traffic for a Cubs baseball game. That protest drew about 400 marchers – and almost the same number of police officers.
On July 7, almost 1,000 marchers briefly shut down the city’s Dan Ryan Expressway, chanting “Shut it down!” and “No justice, no peace!” That protest was led by a Catholic priest, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has said Emanuel’s resignation would do no good. Emanuel aligned himself with protesters that day, drawing the scorn of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for failing to keep the freeway open.
“I’m disappointed in the Mayor,” Rauner tweeted. “There was an agreement in place. I am calling on the Mayor to take swift and decisive action to put an end to this kind of chaos. I will work with him in good faith and urge him to do his job so that the people of Chicago feel safe.”
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