Anti-violence protesters reach Wrigley Field after closing down Lake Shore Drive
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They shut down Lake Shore Drive for a half an hour in the middle of rush hour.
They made it to Wrigley Field for an hour of chants and speeches.
They didn’t disrupt the Cubs game. And no one was arrested or reported injured.
But they sure got some attention.
Those were the highlights of a long-awaited march by a few hundred protesters who worked to highlight gun violence on the South and West sides by winding their way through the North Side on Thursday afternoon.
Chicago police blocked off Lake Shore Drive traffic for the peaceful protesters, who marched onto the drive about 4:20 p.m. and left the normally bustling roadway about 30 minutes later, heading west on Belmont Avenue.
By 5:30 p.m., protesters reached Wrigley Field before the Cubs took on the San Diego Padres during a night game. As the demonstrators chanted for about an hour, hundreds of fans took in the pregame action from the ballpark’s concourse and nearby beer gardens.
Activist and organizer Tio Hardiman, with his shirt drenched in sweat after the 2 mile march in the sweltering August sun, called the march a success.
“We came here to redistribute the pain in Chicago. People in this neighborhood don’t feel the pain we feel every day, so we brought it to their doorstep,” Hardiman said.
Before the rally, protester Rochelle Sykes — whose 15-year-old nephew Demetrius Griffin was found burned to death in a West Side alley in 2016 — gestured at upscale high-rises along the drive, where some residents gawked from balconies at the growing demonstration.
“I’m glad folks can afford to live up in the penthouse, but there’s bad stuff going on here for us on the ground floor,” Sykes said.
Organizer Rev. Gregory Livingston said the march was about “bringing the pain of so many forgotten residents to the affluent areas.” In the days leading up to the protest, Livingston had hinted that protesters might try to enter Wrigley, but the crowd dissipated well before first pitch.
The protesters demanded the resignation of Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They didn’t seek the support of the mayor, who endorsed Rev. Michael Pfleger’s protest march that shut down a portion of Dan Ryan Expressway last month.
The Dan Ryan march was larger, drawing thousands of protesters. Police pegged the crowd size of Thursday’s protest at just 150, though there appeared to be close to 300 as marchers turned onto Clark Street.
Among the marchers was former CPS Principal Troy LaRaviere, who is running for Emanuel’s job. He said Thursday’s protesters sent a message that wasn’t delivered during the Dan Ryan shutdown: “We need to remove this administration.”
Some children taking part in the march used Lake Shore Drive as their blackboard, using chalk to write messages of social justice.
Kathy Parsons and her 4-year-old son, Ned, scrawled “Justice for Harith” in chalk on the roadway, referring to Harith Augustus, the 37-year-old barber who was shot and killed after a confrontation with police last month, causing a community outcry.
“I don’t want [my son] to learn things about white supremacy and racism that he’ll have to unlearn later,” Parsons said.
Jacqueline Von Edelberg, a Nettelhorst School parent, provided the chalk as part of the Sidewalk Challenge, a gun violence awareness initiative. She said the atmosphere was the same as that during the Dan Ryan protest: “Everyone is speaking in the same voice, loud and clear, that says that the status quo as it is simply untenable.”
The Lake Shore Drive shutdown came in the middle of the afternoon rush on a busy summer day in Chicago, with Lollapalooza starting in Grant Park. Protesters had called for musicians at Lollapalooza not to perform out of solidarity, but the music went on as scheduled.
Chicago police did a series of rolling street closures as the march progressed, creating traffic headaches across the North Side. More than two dozen CPD vehicles trailed the protest at times, along with bicycle patrols.
North Side resident Tom Hethcoat said he had never seen a protest of this magnitude outside his building on Belmont in 27 years.
While he didn’t appreciate the traffic shutdown, “there are senseless killings everyday, and they’ve got every right to protest that,” he said.
Another resident, Harold Gatewood, pointed out that streets in his neighborhood are blocked off regularly for street festivals and general Wrigleyville debauchery.
“It’s nice to have the script flipped for a more important cause,” Gatewood said.
North Sider Amy Nussbaum praised the marchers, saying her community needs “the wake-up call and for us to be less segregated. We should work together as a city.”