Thousands of protesters are expected to join in a demonstration in Chicago Saturday aiming to shut down the Dan Ryan Expressway and then travel into downtown.
Hosted by several area organizations, the protest, titled "Black Lives Matter March: SHUTDOWN OUR DAN RYAN," is set to step off at noon Saturday at 39 W. 47th Street.
Illinois State Police confirmed they are aware of the protest and have been in contact with protest organizers "to set up a safe route of travel."
"The Illinois State Police will protect the rights of those seeking to peacefully protest while ensuring the safety of the public," the department said in a statement.
Chicago police also said they were aware of the event.
As of Friday, Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications said the route the protesters are expected to take ends in Grant Park. It includes:
- Westbound on 47th St to the Dan Ryan Expressway onto the Dan Ryan via the ramp
- Marchers will then proceed northbound to the 43rd St exit ramp and walk eastbound on 43rd to Indiana, North on Indiana to 31st St
- West on 31st St to Michigan Avenue
- North on Michigan Ave to Roosevelt Rd (Grant Park)
OEMC said roughly 2,000 protesters are currently estimated to attend.
Following violent clashes with police during demonstrations at a Christopher Columbus statue in the city, organizers issued restrictions for those planning to march Saturday.
Among the restrictions were no PVC pipes, no wagons or coolers, protesters must avoid CTA Red Line tracks along the route and marchers cannot stay on the expressway once the group exits. Bikes will also be prohibited on the expressway.
Still, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed concerns about the demonstration.
"I have great concerns about allowing anyone ever to get on expressways, particularly in this time," Lightfoot said Friday. "It's a significant drain of police resources, even though we don't have primary jurisdiction over the expressway, we have to be there. And particularly, as I understand it, they're planning to come down to Grant Park. That is our jurisdiction. So I have a lot of concerns about it. We are going to continue to be in conversation with our state partners about this issue and hopefully have a workable solution."
In addition to safety concerns, Lightfoot also said she's worried about people "hijacking" the event.
"We of course support peaceful protests and assembly always, but unfortunately, as we've seen way too many times over the course of this summer, peaceful protests have been hijacked by people who have every made every effort to try to provoke our police, injure our police and end up injuring innocent people who come just to be able to express themselves, as is their God given right- particularly the right under the First Amendment of the Constitution," Lightfoot said. "So these are very complicated, delicate situations. And we need to make sure that first and foremost, we are keeping our residents, our neighborhoods and our businesses and our police officers safe."
Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara also wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch Wednesday blasting reported plans of the Saturday protest as an “act of terrorism.”
“We have also learned that there is a major protest scheduled for this weekend on the Dan Ryan Expressway which will lead to more civil unrest and violence,” he said. “The expressways should provide federal jurisdiction, as it will impede interstate commerce and to be quite frank, to block an interstate highway is an act of terrorism.”
Catanzara’s letter was also sent to President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr.