Chicago protestors threaten to 'get arrested' and 'shut down streets' in anti-gun violence demonstration

Anti-violence protesters block major freeway in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., July 7, 2018: REUTERS

Chicago activists have warned a sprawling anti-violence protest may lead to multiple arrests and the shutdown of busy streets.

The demonstration was being organised in an effort to unseat Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s Democratic mayor, and Eddie Johnson, the city’s police superintendent, according to organisers. Protestors planned to march from Lake Shore Drive to Wrigleyville in the middle of Thursday rush hour, and had not ruled out entering the Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs were scheduled to play against the San Diego Padres.

“We have people who are committed, who are ready to get arrested,” Ira Acree, a reverend of Greater St. John Bible Church who was providing buses to transport protestors to the march, told the Chicago Tribune. “And those who don’t, they’ll stay back. But certainly, people are going to get arrested. And we will have attorneys and people who will provide resources to bail them out.”

Several major protests have occurred throughout Chicago in response to the city’s unending issues with gun violence. The region became an epicentre for gun violence after local courts rolled back the city’s strict gun ordinances and weapons guidelines from over a decade ago, which banned residents from keeping handguns in their homes and required that all firearms were registered and obtained a permit.

Chicago has suffered a spike in gun violence ever since, with over 50 people being shot during a single week in May this year — including law enforcement.

The city has also seen an increase in homicides, with a rate of 25.1 per 100,000 residents, compared to New York’s 2.3 per 100,000.

Protestors, who have not officially coordinated their demonstration with City Hall, have demanded the mayor step down due to his apparent inability to reduce violence.

“Honestly, when the mayor endorses a protest, it’s no longer a protest,” Mr Acree continued. “It becomes a parade, and we’re on serious business.”

In a statement, the Chicago police department said it was prepared to protect demonstrators during the march and said it had met with several organisers in an unofficial capacity to discuss their plans.

“In the end, CPD will protect individuals’ right to demonstrate but we also have a responsibility to balance the potential public safety and traffic implications of the event,” Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesperson for the department, told the Chicago Tribune.

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