Organizers of Lake Shore Drive protest not seeking mayor’s approval

CHICAGO -- Protesters are planning to shut down Lake Shore Drive Thursday afternoon saying the city needs to come to a stop-and-deal with the perennial problems of violence, poverty and racial discrimination. The march could cause problems on a night when the city is hosting one of the biggest events of the year, and organizers said they do not need the mayor's approval.

Protesters plan to start Thursday at 4 p.m. and bring traffic to a standstill and bring attention to the problems plaguing the South and West Side of the city. Organizers said they will shut down Lake Shore Drive at Diversey Parkway just as people are going to Lollapalooza in Grant Park. Protesters plan to move north and exit at Belmont Avenue, then march down Clark Street. The march will end in the trendy and booming Wrigleyville neighborhood, which has come to symbolize the disparity in economic development, safety and educational resources between the North and South Sides of the city.

“We are focusing on disruption. We want to be a disruptive force on August 2nd, and that’s one reason we’re going up to Cubs park,” Rev. Gregory Livingston said.

Police reform advocate and community activist, Eric Russell, said the protest is intended to show people on the North Side that vast parts of the city are dealing with a crisis of violence and poverty.

“We will not pick cotton in the fields south and west of Wrigleyville. We demand a level playing field,” Russell said.

A Cubs spokesman said in a statement:

“We are advising fans to avoid Lake Shore Drive, and we’re working with CPD to ensure our guests can safely enter and exit the ballpark without interruption.”

The plan to shut down traffic on one of the city’s major arteries echoes the protest that halted vehicles on the Dan Ryan Expressway earlier this month. Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave his blessing to that march, and CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson walked arm-in-arm with organizer Rev. Michael Pfleger.

But organizers of Thursday’s protest said it will differ in one major respect: They’re not seeking approval from the mayor or the police.

“I think it’s vitally important that it’s a protest. Honestly when a mayor endorses a protest, it’s no longer a protest. It becomes a parade,” Rev. Ira Acree said.

Police said they’re preparing to have a presence on the North Side similar to what they’d deploy if one of the city’s major professional sports teams were in a championship game.

In a statement, a police spokesman said:

“We are committed to protecting the rights of demonstrators, while also balancing the important public safety and traffic impacts of their planned demonstration.”

“We’re not looking for protection, we’re looking for liberation,” Rev. Livingston said.

Activists wouldn’t give an estimate of how many people would be marching. They said it will be “enough.” Police are planning for a large crowd.