Chicagoland

Peaceful protest shuts down northbound Dan Ryan

By By Joyce Duriga | Editor
July 9, 2018

Peaceful protest shuts down northbound Dan Ryan

More than 1,000 people joined St. Sabina pastor Father Michael Pfleger on July 7, 2018 in a peaceful protest that shutdown four northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway for two hours. They were protesting inaction against gun violence and called for better educational opportunities for youth and more jobs for young people. (Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)
(Natalie Battaglia/Chicago Catholic)

In the tradition of the Twelve Apostles, Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Parish, 1210 W. 78th Place, led more than 1,000 people in an act of civil disobedience July 7 that shut down all four northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway from 79th Street to 67th Street. 

The peaceful march, which lasted about two hours, was held in protest of gun violence on the South and West sides and to urge government officials to provide better education for  young people in those neighborhoods and much-needed jobs.

A large Chicago and Illinois State police presence greeted the marchers as they walked down the northbound ramp at 79th Street. The right  lane was blocked off for the marchers. But protesters soon stopped for more than an hour as Pfleger and Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow Push negotiated with police to shut down all four lanes. 

Eventually all four lanes were opened to protesters, who carried signs and chanted, “Shut it down!”

Also leading the march were students with the movement Chicago Strong, which includes young people from St. Sabina and Immaculate Conception Parish, 2745 W. 44th St. People of all ages and races participated in the event.

On the eve of the march, Cardinal Cupich released a statement supporting the protesters. 

“History has proven many times that nonviolent action and peaceful protest have the power to create change. The change we need in this moment is to end a culture of violence and indifference. This is a priority we must all embrace and for which we must all work,” the statement said. “I applaud the courage shown by young people in our city and across the country demanding their right to life and human dignity, given by God and guaranteed by our nation’s founders. They make us proud. They give us hope. I encourage them to be bold and undaunted in pressing their case and securing real change to have the peace and security they have every right to expect.”

The cardinal issued another statement following the march giving thanks that the protest took place peacefully.

“Now it is time for all of us, especially our leaders, to take up with vigor the concerns raised by our young people and all those who marched today,” his statement said.

 Shutting down the Dan Ryan was necessary to call attention to an issue people living in and around Chicago have become desensitized to, said Taylor, a young woman who works with youth and asked that her last name not be used.

“It’s time that we did something to really shake it up because at this point it is a bigger issue,” she said. “It’s not just a black issue, it’s not just a South Side issue. It’s a city issue. We really are just trying to raise awareness so that our policy makers can make a difference.”
Taylor has lost a friend and a family member to gun violence.

“I want there to be some emotion and some faces put toward a lot of these issues,” she said. “I want people to understand these are human beings with backgrounds. No, they’re not perfect. Nobody’s perfect, but everybody deserves a chance.”

Participating in an act of civil disobedience isn’t something to be entered into lightly, said Hugh McElwain, professor emeritus at Dominican University in River Forest. McElwain took part in marches and civil disobedience during the Vietnam War — locally and nationally — and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. 

Those who do it must accept the consequence that they might be arrested and jailed, he said. 

 “Civil disobedience means that it’s disobedience to the law but it’s civil in the sense that you have decided you don’t want to break this law but there’s a higher law that you call attention to,” McElwain said. “What about these basic human rights — if you don’t have food, healthcare or education you’re not going to have much of a future.”

Not everyone agrees that civil disobedience is OK, McElwain said, but Catholics have historically led these efforts because their faith and Catholic social teaching moves them to do something radical to call attention to those who are suffering. 

“You do it and accept the consequences hoping that the attention that you drew to the situation might change the mind of society, but you don’t know that,” he said. “I always tell people Gandhi was assassinated. Jesus was crucified. Martin Luther King was assassinated. If you’re choosing this you’re choosing something that is really problematic. You have to be convinced that the injustice you are protesting against means more than the injustice of the inconvenience you are causing for an hour or so.”

It’s a quagmire, he said, and not something that can be easily be justified to others.

“You just say no. ‘We’re not getting a hearing and this is the only way,’” he said. “People are saying we’ve been telling you about this problem but nothing is changing so we’re going to do something drastic. You let everybody know what you’re going to do, you do it and you take the consequences.”

Topics:

  • gun violence

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