What to Know
- The anti-violence march is scheduled to begin at about 10 a.m. Saturday on the Dan Ryan Expressway at 79th
- Rev, Pfleger said about 3,000 people are expected to attend, up from about 1,000
- State Police have encouraged Pfleger not to hold the march on the expressway and warned of arrests
NOTE: NBC Chicago will have live coverage from the Dan Ryan Expressway Saturday morning. Watch live here.
As of Saturday 9:30 a.m., police have blocked several lanes of the inbound Dan Ryan Expressway at 79th Street ahead of planned peace march; authorities also warn drivers that the exit ramp at 76th is also blocked.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday publicly backed a planned weekend peace march that intends to temporarily shut down part of the Dan Ryan Expressway to send a message about the city's high rate of gun violence.
"Think about this," Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference. "They're going to raise an awareness that's important if we're also going to make progress ... in making sure that our streets are safe. But I want to also widen everybody's lens."
When asked, Emanuel said Pfleger and the estimated 3,000 participants expected to attend the march at 10 a.m. Saturday should be allowed on the busy expressway.
"They should be allowed, yes, because they're going to be talking about anti-violence," he said.
Pfleger on Tuesday doubled down on his promise to temporarily shut down the expressway this weekend, despite a warning from state police that participants on the expressway will face arrest.
"This is not about just a march," Pfleger said at a press conference, pointing to news of 61 children struck by gunfire so far this year. "This is not about just an interruption of traffic. This is about the violence in the city of Chicago."
A little over two weeks ago, at Saint Sabina's Peace March, Pfleger called for at least 1,000 people to join him on July 7 in shutting down the expressway to protest the "senseless violence" in Chicago.
According to plans posted on chistrong.org, the march will start at 10 a.m. Saturday from 79th Street to 68th. Protesters are asking for five things, according to organizers: "resources for our communities, national common sense gun laws, jobs, excellent schools and economic development."
On Tuesday, Pfleger renewed that call, standing beside Rev. Jesse Jackson, community leaders, other pastors and teens to "make sure the purpose of this march is clear to the people coming and clear to the city of Chicago."
“No threats will stop us, no jail cells will contain us,” Jackson said.
State Police, in a statement released just before Pfleger's press conference, warned pedestrians "not to enter any expressways in Illinois, or they will face arrest and prosecution."
"This call to protest on the Dan Ryan, however well-intentioned, is reckless," ISP Director Leo Schmitz said. "It puts the lives of protestors and people in the community in grave danger."
Police said they strongly discourage the protest at this location and said they met with Pfleger to discuss the dangers of doing it, from causing potential hazards for traffic on the expressway to putting the protesters themselves at risk.
"The ISP supports the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble, so long as it does not put the safety of the public in peril," police said in a statement.
Schmitz told NBC 5 that state police aren't looking to arrest people, but they worry about the march risking public safety. "Tens of thousands of drivers will be affected," he said.
Pfleger and others noted major arteries are often shut down for public events and construction.
"If you can shut down Lake Shore Drive for more than a day to install a bridge, then we can shut down the Dan Ryan for two hours to get the justice that we deserve for these innocent lives being lost left and right," one teen said.