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Highway protesters honor Emmett Till, condemn police shootings of Black men: ‘Stop Killing Us’

Rev. Michael Pfleger and members of St. Sabina Church gathered on a Dan Ryan Expressway overpass Friday evening.

Members of St. Sabina protest an a Dan Ryan Expressway overpass at 76th Street on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.
Members of St. Sabina protest an a Dan Ryan Expressway overpass at 76th Street on Friday.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Members of St. Sabina Church gathered on 75th Street over the Dan Ryan Expressway during rush hour Friday, holding signs with a simple request: “Stop Killing Us.”

“Sixty-five years ago, Emmett Till was murdered today and 65 years later we are still having Black men shot and killed,” said Rev. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina’s pastor. “The murderers of Emmett Till weren’t ever charged and the same thing is going on around this country today.”

More than two dozen church members walked each side of the overpass carrying signs. Pfleger and other members held a 6-foot-wide sign on the metal fence over the highway as cars whizzed by, some drivers honking in support. Two people walked the median along 75th Street with the sign over their torsos, fists raised.

Members of the church also wore shirts with printing on the front and back. On the front, “Stop Killing Us.” On the back, seven bullet holes — the number of times a Kenosha police officer shot Blake in the back as he tried to enter his car.

In addition to honoring the memory of Emmett Till, Pfleger said he also wanted to demand the arrest of the officer who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. Pfleger also wants Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth to resign for failing to stop a militia group from recruiting armed men to protect property in that city.

Members of St. Sabina, including Rev. Michael Pfleger (left center, blue mask) protest an a Dan Ryan Expressway overpass at 76th Street on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.
Members of St. Sabina, including Rev. Michael Pfleger (left center, blue mask) protest an a Dan Ryan Expressway overpass at 76th Street on Friday.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“Not only do we have the tale of the two cities in Chicago, but we also have the tale of the two justice systems in America,” Pfleger said. “It is time the federal government and implement police reform across this country — it’s got to be done now.”

Lisa Ramsey said she was terrified by the use of excessive force by police and felt it was important for her to be out there marching with her fellow churchgoers.

“We want to make a statement that we are tired of the senseless killing that is going on by police officers as well those in that are happening in the community and we just want it to stop,” Ramsey said. “We are tired of it and we have to work together because the killing has to stop.”

Recent videos showing police brutality have the whole country on edge, Ramsey said. The videos, along with the pandemic and high unemployment, Ramsey said, have been the catalyst for mass protest and some riots.

Seeing the contrast between how Kenosha police officers handled Blake, while allowing the accused shooter, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, to leave the scene, was telling, she said.

“[Rittenhouse] walked past tons of police officers and nothing happened to him until the next day and that is causing more anger,” Ramsey said. “People are angry because that looks like they are saying, ‘As long as you’re white we’re not going to bother you, but if you’re Black, then you’re a danger to us.’”

A group anti-violence activists from Saint Sabina hold up signs that read “Stop Killing Us” on the 76th Street Overpass that crosses over the Dan Ryan Expressway, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
A group anti-violence activists from Saint Sabina hold up signs that read “Stop Killing Us” on the 76th Street Overpass that crosses over the Dan Ryan Expressway, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides