Thursday’s planned protest to shut down Lake Shore Drive at Belmont must be giving Mayor Rahm Emanuel nightmares.
The mayor can’t sanction the march led by the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina last month, and turn around and condemn a march being led by black activists.
The only thing he can do is make sure there’s no trouble –– and that won’t be easy.
But will the shutdown change anything in Lawndale where three children were among four people wounded last Friday?
Will it stop brazen carjackers, like the one who shot and killed 59-year-old Mashell Appleton, a passenger in a vehicle, when the driver tried to pull away?
That’s a fair question since tying up the city’s expressways appears to be the latest tactic activists are using to bring attention to the city’s ongoing violence.
“First and foremost, we are shutting down Belmont and Lake Shore Drive and marching to Wrigley Field to redistribute the pain,” said Tio Hardiman, formerly the head of CeaseFire Illinois.
“There is no real economic development on the South and West sides, and the North Side is flourishing. We would like to bring our message of despair and hopelessness to the North Side,” he told me.
Hardiman, who ran for governor twice as a Democrat, has partnered with the Rev. Gregory Livingston, a spokesman for Willie Wilson’s 2015 mayoral campaign, to organize the shutdown.
Neither man joined the march organized by Pfleger that shutdown the Dan Ryan expressway on July 7.
Hardiman said he was unavailable and Livingston didn’t believe Pfleger’s strategy of marching on the South Side would be fruitful.
“It isn’t the most effective way to work on reducing the violence if you remain where the pain exists,” Livingston told me.
“It is going to take more than one event and more than one group to fight the corruption and violence because it is everywhere,” he added.
Although both marches are anti-violence demonstrations, there is a stark difference between this march and the one led by Pfleger.
His march focused on the violence and demanded the city invest more resources in neglected communities and youth.
Organizers of the Lake Shore Dr. march are calling for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson even though it is obvious that neither man is going to step down.
Hardiman, who runs Violence Interrupters, Inc., is pushing for the city’s major funders to spread the money around.
“These major foundations — McArthur Foundations, the Joyce Foundation, the McCormick Foundation —t hey need to fund grassroots African-American led violence prevention programs to the same tune that they are funding the white-led organizations,” he said.
“Everybody is making money off black death, and it is time for us to give black organizations the funding. I have a plan that we can reduce violence by 50 percent, but I need to be able to hire these young guys on the corners, help train and help guide them. I don’t have the resources to hire these guys,” he said.
He raises a valid point.
But if major funders conceded to his demands, what would stop other grassroots groups from using the “shutdown” tactic to make demands of their own.
And even though Hardiman says he is not using the march to lobby for his own organization, the optics is bad.
There is also the issue of safety.
Although the Dan Ryan shutdown was a non-violent march, there were tense moments when it looked like the Illinois State Police would prevent marchers from completely closing down the expressway.
Blocking traffic on the city’s highways is a dangerous undertaking, but Hardiman is convinced they can shut down Lake Shore Drive without police help and without confrontation.
“This will be a peaceful demonstration and I don’t anticipate anyone getting arrested. At the end of the day, they did not lock up Father Pfleger and his crew,” he pointed out.
Hardiman is hoping Tom Ricketts will allow him and two other people to address Cubs fans before the game.
“We want to let them know what we are marching for then they can enjoy their Cubs game in peace. That would be an honor,” he said.
But a grassroots activist preaching to Cubs fans after snarling traffic?
I wouldn’t want to be in that crowd.