“We came out here to do one thing: to shut it down,” said Father Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabine Catholic Church, as he led a crowd of thousands to march in protest against gun violence in Chicago. The demonstration was always intended to take place on the two side lanes of Dan Ryan Expressway, but “shut it down” they did as the crowd of protesters swelled and police were forced to close the remaining lanes.
Catholic News Agency reports that Fr. Pfleger was pleased by the action:
“We came here to get their attention. Hopefully we got their attention. … Today was the attention-getter, but now comes the action.” Father Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabine Catholic Church, told the Chicago Tribune.
The protest took place the Saturday after July 4, a period known for its annual spikes in gun violence in the Windy City. Last year, 15 people were killed and 87 people were injured by gunshots during the July 4 holiday.
The protest began on the entrance of the expressway at 79th Street and activists marched to the exit at 67th Street. The demonstration lasted from 10:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The remaining lanes were only closed during the second hour, when the crowed grew.
Pfleger walked among the chanting activists carrying a cross bearing the words “Stop Shooting.” Others in attendance included U.S. Representative Danny Davis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Harolynn McIntosh, the pastor of a South Side church.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lent his support to the event, and according to the Chicago Sun Times helped organize the event with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Cardinal Blase Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago.
“I just figured there had to be a common-sense way to do this and figure it out,” Mayor Emanuel said. “So I called [Governor] Bruce. Look, we were in need of a way to declare our independence from violence. What better time to do it then a time when we celebrate our own nation’s independence.”
Cardinal Cupich also sent his well wishes to the movement via Twitter:
“Non-violent action and peaceful protest have the power to create change. The change we need in this moment is to end a culture of violence and indifference,” he wrote in a July 7 tweet. “I applaud the courage shown by young people in our city and across the country demanding their right to life and human dignity, given by God and guaranteed by our nation’s founders.”