Last week, Chicago’s North Side experienced a ghost from the past.
It’s the return of the famous (or infamous) “16 Shots and a Coverup” and “Resign Rahm” chants that permeated City Hall and Downtown Michigan Avenue in late 2015. Then, protestors called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation in response to the release of the Laquan McDonald video and continuous protests for police accountability. On Thursday, August 2nd, Rev. Greg Livingston of New Hope Baptist Church, Tio Hardiman of the Violence Interrupters, and the Coalition for a New Chicago led a Lake Shore Drive shutdown to not only reinvigorate the demands for the mayor’s resignation, but to call on economic development as an answer to community and police violence.
“First and foremost, we’re standing up against excessive force and police brutality,” an impassioned Tio Hardiman explained before the protest. “Gun violence is still high in Chicago. We’ve had over 300 homicides and over 1,400 people have been shot. I’ve just found out that Arne Duncan has received over $90 million for violence prevention on the South Side of Chicago. Who made Arne Duncan a violence prevention expert?”
Hardiman made his speech before even more lives were taken by gun violence this weekend.
Hardiman’s call out of the former Secretary of Education of the Obama Administration is not unusual. Hardiman and his co-organizers believe that Black community leaders should spearhead efforts in addressing the City’s violence and should have a seat at every table that involves funds allocated to the issue.
“After this particular march, we would like to meet with the so-called ‘powers that be’ and see what we can do to redirect economic development to 79th Street, 16th and Lawndale, Madison and Pulaski, and the South Shore community,” says Hardiman. “We don’t even have a grocery store in the South Shore community. African-American people must take control of their communities.”
The march organizers met a couple hundred feet shy of Tescler Playground, about a block south of Belmont and Lake Shore Drive. Media vans and dozens of CPD officers (some on bikes) initially outnumbered demonstrators until organizations like the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), Revolutionary Communist Party USA (RevCom), and Black Lives Matter Lake County arrived. Organizers even bussed individuals from the South and West sides of the City to the event.
State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, made an appearance to support the Lake Shore Drive Shutdown but said that calls for Mayor Emanuel’s resignation are pointless. “When one hurts, we all hurt,” said Ford. “Elections are coming up in February. … but we shouldn’t waste our time calling for [Emanuel’s] resignation because it won’t happen. The best thing for me to do is negotiate and try to bring resources to the West and South sides of Chicago.”
Garbage trucks and city plows blocked traffic on Lake Shore Drive and forced motorists to take road detours for the evening.
Before taking Lake Shore Drive, Rev. Livingston, another vocal co-organizer of the action, gave a rousing speech.
“We have to come up to Wrigleyville and Lakeview because in disadvantaged neighborhoods the cries and complaints of the people are ignored and neglected,” shouted Livingston from a bullhorn. “But in better-off neighborhoods, the cries and complaints are attended to. So, we are coming to where they hear the cries and complaints of the people.”
Again, Livingston pointed out that the thrust of this protest is Black communities not receiving their fair share of resources.
“We know about the misallocation of money in this City. There is a half-billion dollars in HUD money that Rahm has been sitting on during his tenure.”
After protesting on Lake Shore Drive, the crowd of about 200 marched to Wrigley Field as fans were arriving for a Chicago Cubs game, disrupting traffic and drawing perplexed faces from the North Side onlookers. Chicago police performed rolling street closures as the march progressed, constantly trying to be one step ahead of the demonstrators.
For about three hours, Hardiman and Livingston led a march that wasn’t peaceful but loud with surly chants, loud bullhorns, and thunderous drums. However, the march remained non-violent and within the confines of the law. No protestor was harmed or arrested.
So what’s next? Well, in a press release sent to media City-wide, Rev. Livingston alluded to more protests–perhaps, continuous civil disobedience–if Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not respond:
“If Mayor Rahm Emanuel refuses to even listen to the needs of Chicago’s most vulnerable and neglected citizens – we will raise the heat and block the ingress & egress of Chicago’s airport traffic. We must challenge the Mayor’s arrogance with our hearts, our friends, possibly our votes and newly forged socio-political alliances.”
At press time, Hardiman released a statement saying that he and Livingstone were severing ties. Livingston reportedly wanted to plan another shut down on the Kennedy expressway over Labor Day weekend, which would impact travel to O’Hare. It appears that Hardiman was not in favor of that plan.