Father Pfleger, protesters threatened with arrest ahead of Dan Ryan protest

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The Rev. Michael Pfleger plans to lead a shutdown of the Dan Ryan Expressway on Saturday morning. | Jim Young/Getty Images

Father Michael Pfleger isn’t letting threats of arrest stop his plan to shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway Saturday morning — even as the Archdiocese of Chicago declines to say if it supports his plan or not.

Pfleger has a suggestion for the police if they need additional officers to handle the protest.

“If they say doing this will pull officers from the most needed neighborhoods in the city of Chicago then pull them from the North Side,” Pfleger said, at a news conference Tuesday.

The priest of St. Sabina Church said Illinois State Police hand delivered a letter this morning that said they would arrest anyone who steps foot on the Dan Ryan, one of Chicago’s busiest expressways.

But the head of the Illinois State Police said at a separate news conference that arresting people isn’t the goal but rather keeping them safe.

Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz, who previously commanded the CPD’s Englewood District, just north of St. Sabina, said that the idea of marching along the busy expressway poses too great of a threat to public safety.

“This call to protest on the Dan Ryan, however well-intentioned, could be considered reckless and must be strongly discouraged,” Schmitz said Tuesday. “The potential of death or injury to pedestrians on the expressway, no matter how righteous the cause, is enormous.

Aside from Lake Shore Drive, all expressways within city limits are under the jurisdiction of the ISP.

“We’re not looking to arrest people,” Schmitz said. “If people break the law, we may have to arrest people, but that’s not what our goal is here.”

Asked if ISP troopers would physically restrain people from walking onto the expressway, Schmitz said, “That’s one of our plans, yes.”

Pfleger’s plan to shut down part of the Dan Ryan is his latest effort to demand action on the city’s gun violence problem, and on Tuesday he wasn’t buying police objections to the plan.

“They’ll close any expressway when a president comes into town, they’ll close it for every event that’s been going on in this city, they close it down Lake Shore Drive for the Bulls . . . ” Pfleger said. “Why don’t you close it down for people and for lives?”

It’s unclear how Pfleger’s plans are going over with his superiors. A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Chicago declined to comment when asked if the archdiocese supports or is discouraging Pfleger’s plans for the march.

Protesters are set to block off the northbound lanes of the expressway from 79th to 67th Streets Saturday morning — buses to 79th street, near the Dan Ryan, will be available at St. Sabina.

The group will meet at 79th street, near the Dan Ryan, around 9:45 a.m. and march down the ramp.

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