On her 584th straight day on a bridge above the Kennedy Expressway, the Northwest Side’s Bernie Sis found herself accused of running afoul of the law for the first time.
Veronica Wolski again went up on a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Kennedy on Friday morning, continuing her unique mode of speaking out about the state of affairs in the country.
Every day since Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, Wolski has stood on the bridge for a few hours and posted handmade signs with succinct, left-leaning messages.
“IT’S NOT OVER,” read the sign she posted Friday on the chain-link fence over the outbound Kennedy, near the Gladstone Park Metra station.
I asked her what’s not over.
“Our fight for having a good country is not over,” she replied. “Nothing is over.”
Her time on the bridge would be over, though, if the Illinois State Police have their way.
Wolski says three state troopers approached her when she was on the bridge Friday morning and said she had to stop doing what she’s been doing — or face getting locked up.
Wolski says she doesn’t know why the cops have confronted her now, because countless people — including many state police vehicles — have passed under her without incident since the summer of 2016.
“They said they had a call,” Wolski says. “If [the complainants] don’t like my sign, then they can come up here, too, and they can put up their own signs, saying whatever they want to say.”
Many motorists, even police officers, honk at her. Hour after hour, in all sorts of weather, she will wave back to the cars or live-stream her protest and drivers’ responses on social media. Her messages deeply resonate with Bernie bros as well as Sanders’ female supporters across America.
State police spokesman Matt Boerwinkle said Wolski could be arrested and fined $120 for each citation.
“By statute, that is illegal,” he said. “If the individual returns, she could receive a citation.”
According to the “written warning” the troopers handed her at 10 a.m. Friday, Wolski broke a law that states: “No person shall place, maintain or display upon or in view of any highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking or device which purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles an official traffic-control device or railroad sign or signal, or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic, or which hides from view or interferes with the movement of traffic or the effectiveness of an official traffic-control device or any railroad sign or signal.”
Wolski said she didn’t believe she’s breaking that law and has the constitutional right to engage in this expression of free speech.
She was up on the bridge again for an hour and a half on Saturday. And she ran her streak to 586 consecutive days on Sunday afternoon, with a sign that criticized plans to close public schools. Police left her alone both days.
Unlike some on the left, Wolski says she’s a big fan of law enforcement. When I first interviewed her for a column earlier in the winter, she told me she has no beef with rank-and-file cops.
And any time she sees a police car driving toward what she calls the “Bernie Bridge,” she crosses herself and blows a kiss to officers.
“I’ve had state troopers honk their horns at me,” says Wolski, a 60-year-old married mother of one who lives in Jefferson Park. “When they see me, they should know I’m doing the sign of the cross, and I’m sending them a guardian angel.”
But she said she’s ready to pay the price for what she believes. She expects supporters she has reached through social media will help pay any fines that police may assess, just as they have contributed cold-weather gear.
“If they put me in jail, the minute I get out, I will go right back up on the bridge,” Wolski said. “I told [the state troopers], you do what you have to do. I have to do what I have to do, too — which is offer hope for Chicago and this country. All I do is offer hope.”