Activist priest calls for an anti-violence protest, closing down Chicago highway

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The social advocate and Chicago priest Father Michael Pfleger has invited anti-violence activists to protest gun violence by closing a portion of the Dan Ryan Expressway, where it is part of I-94.

As many as 1,000 people could join Father Pfleger July 7. Beginning at the entrance ramp on 79th Street, the protestors will march about mile and a half until the exit ramp off 67th Street, shutting down the highway's northbound lanes.

Father Pfleger is the pastor of St Sabina Catholic Church, a parish which has hosted similar protests in the past. On Monday, he posted on Twitter and Facebook encouraging people to participate in the rally. The march will follow a few days after U.S. Independence Day, which sees annual spike in shootings in Chicago.

"As we celebrate Independence weekend, there's not a sense of freedom in many of our communities and for many of our young people," Father Pfleger told the Chicago Tribune. "Instead, there's a sense of fear."

According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois State Police have declined to comment on the protest, but are aware of its presence. Father Pfleger announced the plans to notify commuters in advance, but he does not plan to receive permission from authorities.

In an opinion piece at the Chicago Sun Times, Mary Mitchell said Fr. Pfleger had compared this rally to acts of civil disobedience that were part of the civil rights movement. He said city officials have not done enough to address gun violence, especially that taking place on Chicago's South and West Sides.

"I'm taking a page out of the 101 Book of the Civil Rights Movement. We are sick of this violence – the violence by police, the violence of black on black crime, violence across the board," he said

"But also the violence of bad schools, violence of poverty, violence of no businesses, violence of those coming back from incarceration with bus fare and no opportunities, and the lack of common-sense gun legislation in our state."

The Chicago Tribune wrote that the city has seen more than 1,300 people shot this year alone. The weekend of June 15 was reportedly one of the most violent weekends in 2018, including nine deaths and 47 wounded. On the last Fourth of July, 15 people were shot and killed and 87 others were injured.

St Sabina parish also led anti-gun demonstrations on June 4 at Chicago's Civic center downtown and on June 15 in Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

Editor's note, June 28, 2018, 14:31: An earlier version of this article stated that more than 1,300 people had been killed by gunfire this year in Chicago, rather than 1,300 shot.

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