Watch Live: Chicago Protesters Hope To Shut Down O’Hare Airport Over Gun Violence

Anti-violence protesters frustrated with Chicago gun violence are planning to march on a section of the Kennedy Expressway near O’Hare International Airport at noon Monday – the third such attempt to disrupt a major city roadway since July – in an effort to shut down access to O’Hare International Airport,

The march’s organizer, the Rev. Gregory Livingston, said Monday morning that he didn’t know how many protesters would show up. “Enough to shut the highway down,” he said quoted by the Chicago Tribune.

If enough people show up, the protest could lead to major travel disruptions on the holiday weekend at the nation’s second-busiest airport. Livingston shared an image on Twitter on Sunday laying out his demands as part of the effort. He is calling for legislation that requires 20% of the city’s workforce to be African-American; greater investment on the city’s South and West sides; resources for black-led anti-violence initiatives.

The demonstrators have also called for the resignation of mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is seeking a third term in the February 2019 city election.

The marchers have been protesting the city’s unrelenting gun violence. So far this year, more than 2,000 people have been shot in Chicago, which is fewer people than were shot around this time last year, but still more than in other recent years, according to Tribune data.

Livingston explained that his demands are about desegregating people and resources: “Segregation is a tool of racism that indoctrinates one group with irrational fears and dehumanizes another.”

Major David Byrd, spokesman for the Illinois State Police, told USA Today that authorities will prevent the protest from interrupting traffic, but did not detail how marchers would be stopped from entering the highway.

About 15 Chicago Police Department bicycle officers were near the protest scene Monday morning, as were suburban, state and city police squad cars. Tow trucks and state dump trucks lined a ramp onto the Kennedy. “At this time, we expect travel to remain uninterrupted,” said Illinois State Police Lt. Matt Boerwinkle on Friday. He declined to discuss specific plans to deal with the march along Interstate 90.

However, as of 11:15 a.m., the Tribune reports that police far outnumbered a small continent of a dozen or so protesters gathered on a street corner in 85-degree heat. Protesters carries signs that read “North Side against white supremacy,” and “White silence = violence.”

The Labor Day protest comes on the heels of an Aug. 2 march that briefly blocked Lake Shore Drive, then made its way through Lakeview and culminated in a short demonstration outside Wrigley Field. The summer’s largest protest took place July 7, when demonstrators led by the Rev. Michael Pfleger marched in the traffic lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Watch Live: Chicago Protesters Hope To Shut Down O'Hare Airport Over Gun Violence
Thousands walked on the Dan Ryan Expressway in an anti-violence march led by the Rev. Michael Pfleger and other religious leaders on Saturday, July 7, 2018. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

On Monday, Livingston noted that police didn’t make arrests at the earlier marches. “They didn’t make any arrests on the Ryan,” he said. “What is so special about the Kennedy?”

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said marching near O’Hare makes it “a much different situation” than the Dan Ryan event. In the runup to that protest, state police threatened arrests, only to allow marchers partial access to the highway. On-scene negotiations between Pfleger and Chicago police led to the eventual shutdown of all northbound lanes. The resulting shutdown led to a social media spat between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the governor expressing his displeasure that the march caused “chaos.”

While Guglielmi said that Chicago police tried to work with Livingston on several possible locations for Monday’s march that would not have potential ramifications on O’Hare, Livingston stuck with his Kennedy Expressway route. If marchers try to block traffic on Interstate 190 at the entrance to O’Hare or otherwise attempt to block traffic, that could have federal implications and lead to arrests, Guglielmi said.

Livingston, of New Hope Baptist Church in West Humboldt Park, is an unsuccessful aldermanic candidate who also put together the Lake Shore Drive demonstration, which drew about 200 people. He said earlier that it’s important to keep the protest momentum going — even when people might want to sit back and relax on a three-day holiday weekend.

Look, no one wants to be on the expressway on Labor Day, but … I pray to God that this holiday weekend is peaceful,” Livingston said. “We are just tired of all the mayhem, and we want to work to make things better. That’s really about it.”

According to USA Today there have been 368 murders in the city of Chicago through August, a 20% decrease through the same period last year. The city attracted national headlines last month after one of its most violent weekends of the year left 12 people dead and 62 wounded.

According to the Hill, President Trump, who has publicly feuded with Emanuel and may even side with today’s protest group, took notice of the violence and blamed it on city leadership.

“That’s bad stuff happening, and probably I guess you have to take from the leadership,” Trump said. “There’s no reason in a million years that something like that should be happening in Chicago.”

Live feed from the event courtesy of WGN TV:

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