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Anti-Violence Protesters To Shut Down Chicago's Lake Shore Drive


Later today in the thick of the afternoon rush hour in Chicago, activists and residents who live in some of the city's distressed neighborhoods plan to shut down one of Chicago's busiest roadways. It's the second time within a month that demonstrators have used traffic and infrastructure to draw attention to issues they say are too often ignored in other parts of the city. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: I'm standing at Belmont and Lake Shore Drive. Lake Shore Drive is one of the city's most scenic roads, also one of the most traveled, and it's here where protesters plan to shut traffic down.

TIO HARDIMAN: We're shutting Lake Shore Drive down to redistribute the pain in Chicago.

CORLEY: Tio Hardiman, an anti-violence activist, crafted the plan with other organizers. The demonstrators plan to block traffic on Lake Shore Drive, then march to Chicago's Wrigley Field to hold a rally. The Chicago Cubs have a home game tonight. For motorists trying to get to the game or to a four-day music festival downtown or simply home, the protest could make that difficult. Hardiman says with the disruption will do is force people on the city's North Side to pay attention to the problems residents of the South and West sides grapple with every day.

HARDIMAN: The message needs to get out because you've got political leaders that keep saying everything's OK in Chicago. It's not OK. You've got a lot of counties on the South, West and East side and no economic development, but on the North Side by Wrigley Field, people are out living a real, real joyous - a good life over here.

CORLEY: And because violence persists in some Chicago neighborhoods, Hardiman and other organizers say Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Eddie Johnson need to step down.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Whose streets?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our streets.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Whose streets?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our streets.

CORLEY: Whose streets? Our streets and shut it down have become common refrains at protests across the country in recent years, many prompted by fatal encounters between police and unarmed black men. Early last month, demonstrating Chicagoans took over the lanes of a major expressway as they called for an end to city violence and neighborhood investment. Now comes today's protest aimed at Lake Shore Drive. Mitchell Moss, the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University, says using roads and infrastructure has become a central feature of this country's protest movement in the 21st century.

MITCHELL MOSS: In part because I think they're much more visible and in part also because the protest affects many more people.

CORLEY: Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says there will be several hundred Chicago police officers present at today's event.

ANTHONY GUGLIELMI: We're there to protect their right to demonstrate, but at the same time, we're not going to disrupt activities at the ballpark. We're not going to tolerate civil disobedience or any type of illegal activity.

CORLEY: The organizers say the effort is not just a push for awareness, but for change, and that often doesn't come without discomfort. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.