CHICAGO – Police have asked Rev. Michael Pfleger to reconsider shutting down the Dan Ryan Expressway this weekend, but the prominent activist said he still plans to hold the peace march to draw attention to the violence in underserved Chicago neighborhoods.
City officials are touting crime statistics that show steep declines in shootings and killings, but Pfleger, the pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Gresham, said not enough progress is being made in the most troubled neighborhoods. Pfleger’s peace march will take place July 7 at 10 a.m. in the northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan, from 79th Street to 67th Street.
It was another violent weekend in the city – with more than 30 people shot. In one incident on the West Side, six people were wounded in a drive-by shooting. Three of them were children. The other three, according to CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson, were known to police. He said there has been an ongoing gang conflict in that area.
Pfleger worries that Chicagoans are somehow becoming accustomed to the horrific headlines.
“If it happened anywhere else in the county, we’d call it a mass shooting, but here, it’s something else that happens in Chicago,” he said.
Police statistics show violent crime is declining. The city saw 79 fewer murders and 270 fewer shootings in the first half of this year as compared to the same period last year.
“It is progress, and it does show some of the things we’re doing are taking hold,” Johnson said.
Pfleger said he knows numbers are down, but violence still exists and some communities live in fear. Violence remains a huge concern in neighborhoods he says continue to be underserved on the South and West Sides, so he’s making a a bold statement of civil disobedience with his peace march on the Dan Ryan.
“We’re trying to step it up a notch. We do our marches, our demonstrations, on Michigan Avenue and all of this kind of stuff, but we still end up with the same reality,” Pfleger said. “It’s not just to shut down to shut down, we have an agenda. Our agenda is No. 1, we want the gun issue dealt with."
He said he’s pushing for an assault weapons ban in Illinois and for more resources on the South and West Sides of the city.
“Our communities live neglected and abandoned, we need jobs, we need economic development, we need good schools we need mental health,” he said.
Police have said the march will take resources away from the neighborhoods. Johnson said his job is to keep the protesters safe, but it's also to think about public safety.
Pfleger said if police can “figure it out” for every other event, they can do it for his event as well.
The Chicago police are working with Pfleger, but Johnson said once the group sets foot on the expressway, it’ll be the jurisdiction of the state police.
Pfleger said he’ll announce more details of the plan to shut down the expressway at a news conference on Tuesday.