The Chicago Police Department on Thursday pleaded with Rev. Michael Pfleger to abandon plans to shut down the Dan Ryan on July 7 to avoid pulling 200 officers out of violence-plagued neighborhoods, but the activist priest said the expressway march will go on.
“That was the decision that was made for the acts of civil disobedience and direct action because we are not getting the services we need in our communities, and the violence is continuing. This was the decision that was made, and we’re going with it. We’re not backing down on it,” a defiant Pfleger said.
Pfleger didn’t budge when told the expressway march would require 200 officers to be yanked out of South and West Side neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.
“We close down streets all the time — for festivals, for mass rallies, for Taste of Chicago, for the president coming in town. We closed down the Dan Ryan last week when . . . a girl stepped in front of an L. This is not the first time they’ve had to close down a major artery,” he said.
“This is about the violence going on in this city. Not just the violence of guns, but the violence of poverty. The violence of lack of resources. The violence of lack of housing. The violence of poor schools.”
First Deputy Supt. Anthony Riccio said he sympathizes with the purpose of the peace march and understands Pfleger’s desire to use disruption and inconvenience to bring maximum attention to his cause.
Bu, Riccio argued that by shutting down the Ryan, Pfleger may inadvertently bring more violence to the gang-plagued neighborhoods he is trying to help.
The march is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on July 7.
“We may need up to 200 — maybe even more than 200 — police officers to ensure the safety of these marches. We talked to the state police. They said it would have to be a complete shutdown of the expressway. They can’t do a partial or leave a lane open,” he said.
“Emergency vehicles. Somebody who has a medical issue. Ambulances. Police cars. Fire trucks. We just think it’s a very dangerous idea.”
Riccio argued that a march to stop the violence “belongs in the neighborhoods” that Pfleger is trying so desperately to protect.
“Take this march into the communities where the violence is and show the people in the community that you have all of this support for peace and anti-violence . . . We’d need significantly less resources to police that,” Riccio said.
“The very thing they’re trying to accomplish — to stop violence and stop shootings — has the potential to actually escalate because we’re pulling police officers out of the neighborhoods where we need them in order to escort protesters down the expressway.”
Riccio said he would “love to sit down” with Pfleger to talk about major thoroughfares where media attention would still be high and the inconvenience to motorists would still be great.
“Pretty much anything other than the expressway would be a reasonable alternative,” he said.
The march is scheduled to take place at the tail end of a long holiday weekend filled with special events that will cancel days off, require massive amounts of overtime and strain the Chicago Police Department, almost to the breaking point.
“This is one of the busiest weekends in the city . . . right after the 4th of July. We’re putting a lot of resources into neighborhoods. We have a very detailed plan about how we want to police the communities to keep everybody safe for the next 10 days. This really throws a monkey wrench into that plan,” Riccio said.
“I get it . . . He wants to show that we can’t take the violence anymore. That we have to fight back and stop the violence. But that message is better delivered in a safe way in the community than it is on the Dan Ryan.”
Although Pfleger has slammed the door on a site change, Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, is still holding out hope that Pfleger will change his mind.
“The last thing you want to see is anyone get injured. It’s state jurisdiction, guys. We’re swimming in the wrong waters here,” Reboyras said.
“I know his love for peace and stop the violence. I agree with that. But Lordy. The expressway? I don’t know. I don’t think so . . . It’s not the right way to go about it. That’s all I’ve got to say.”