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Travelers going to and from O’Hare on Labor Day could run into major delays

Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston leads protest on Lake Shore Drive | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston led a protest on Lake Shore Drive in August 2018 | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Protesters may force lane closures on the Kennedy Expressway, causing delays for travelers going to and from O’Hare International Airport late Monday morning.

Organizers plan on entering the expressway at the Cumberland Avenue westbound ramp by about noon, then make their way toward O’Hare, exiting at River Road.

Map of potential protest route on the Kennedy Expressway. | Tanveer Ali/Sun-Times

“If we have enough people out there, we will also have another group [of people] jump over the median and shut down the eastbound lanes as well,”  protest leader Rev. Gregory Livingston said.

The Illinois State Police and Chicago Police Department said they won’t allow protesters to enter the expressway but wouldn’t say whether they expect to arrest anyone who does go onto the highway.

“Our goal is not to make an arrest, but we’re prepared for all purposes, all contingencies,” State Police Major David Byrd said Friday.

Both law enforcement agencies have been working together on developing a plan for Monday’s protest. The primary plan is to keep protesters, travelers and police safe during the march, Byrd said.

“There are several options that we’ve given [Livingston]. He knows what they are. I don’t want to get into them,” Byrd said. “Traffic will be uninterrupted. That’s the plan.”

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson the department is “constantly” talking to groups that are thinking about doing things like shutting down traffic.

“We try to talk to them and see what their issues are. But … let’s not forget that shutting down expressways is illegal.”

Livingston said travelers aren’t the target of the Labor Day march, which would be the third such protest to shut down parts of Chicago roadways this summer. But he acknowledges travelers will likely be affected. Those who benefit from the commerce connected to O’Hare – the airlines, contractors and other businesses – are the real targets.

“Disrupting business from O’Hare that comes from a busy holiday will force them to pressure the mayor to listen to our demands,” Livingston said.

Those demands include: Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation, legislation that would require 20 percent of the construction workforce be African American and the repurposing of 50 Chicago Public Schools that were closed in 2013. Livingston said protesters also want economic investment on the South and West sides; resources for black-led, anti-violence campaigns; a community-led renegotiation of the Fraternal Order of Police contract; and anti-recidivism legislation.

Livingston said the only thing that will stop Monday’s protest is a meeting with Emanuel.

Contributing: Sam Charles