On Saturday morning, anti-violence protesters intend to shut down part of the Dan Ryan Expressway in an act of civil disobedience to draw attention to the violence that impacts many Chicago communities every day.
At 10 a.m., protesters, including the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church, plan to enter the northbound lanes of the expressway at 79th Street and march to the 67th Street exit roughly 1.5 miles away.
Up to 1,000 people are expected to take part in the march, despite the fact that both the Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department are encouraging Pfleger and other organizers to change their plans.
At a press conference Tuesday, Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said his officers would aim to physically prevent people from walking onto the expressway in order to keep anyone from getting hurt.
Among the march organizers are young activists Trevon Bosley and Rie’Onna Holmon.
Bosley was just 7 years old when his brother Terrell was shot and killed while at church for a band rehearsal. Bosley addressed the issue of gun violence in Chicago at the March for Our Lives protest in Washington D.C., in March.
“I want people in the city to understand that Chicago’s violence is still happening, still growing and that is not just something that we should be allowing to occur on a day-to-day basis,” said Bosley. “I want elected officials and other people in power and people running for office to understand that we are protesting issues they need to be tackling. … We want to have a sit-down with them, we want to speak to them about the issues in our community. We have some solutions and we want them to listen to our solutions.”
The causes of violence in Chicago are multifaceted, Bosley says.
“We have a lack of jobs. We have failing community and police relationships to where many black men and young people are arrested often and charged with different things that leave them unable to get a job in the future,” he said.
He also notes that a lack of funding for after-school programs and anti-violence initiatives undermine efforts to reduce the violence.
“We have a lot of different issues that kind of come together to create the problem which is gun violence,” he said.
Holmon, of Woodlawn, is a teenage activist who attends Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep. She says she lives in fear every day because of the level of danger and violence in her community.
“A couple of weeks ago, a couple of days before my last day of school my (CTA) bus got shot up,” said Holmon. “It really affected me because not only did I fear losing my life that day but there were a lot of people on that bus. A lot of young children screaming and crying.”
Holmon, who is just 15, said she had no idea what the shooting was about, “but there was a dead body in the street.”
She believes the violence is a symptom of the lack of economic opportunity for many in her neighborhood.
“I think the main root cause of the violence is the poverty,” said Holmon. “I say that because people are just trying to survive on the South and West Side of Chicago because they don’t have as much money as white people do on the North Side of Chicago. … Schools are being shut down and people are losing their education so they can’t get good jobs. And not only that, but there aren’t any good jobs if you don’t have a college diploma because you can’t afford that education.”
One thing Holmon believes could help reduce the violence is stricter gun laws, not just in Chicago and Illinois but in neighboring states as well.
“They say that Chicago has the strictest guns laws … but even if I do live in Chicago I can take a couple of minute drive to Indiana and purchase a gun legally,” she said.
Bosley and Holmon join Paris Schutz to discuss the protest planned for Saturday and what they hope it will achieve.