Anti-gun violence protesters block major freeway in Chicago

By Miesha Miller

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(Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters calling for an end to gun violence in Chicago partially shut down a major freeway in the city on Saturday, restricting traffic as they demanded lawmakers and members of the community do more to stop the bloodshed.

Initially, hundreds of demonstrators marched along two of the freeway’s four northbound lanes watched by lines of police. Some carried crosses and others banged drums as they marched, chanting slogans including “Black Lives Matter!” Later, the protesters blocked traffic on all four lanes.

Illinois State Police said agreement was reached with organizers of the protest to allow the demonstrators restricted access to Interstate 94, known as the Dan Ryan Expressway, “to march peacefully for their cause.”

By mid-afternoon there were no arrests, police said.

Chicago leaders have long struggled to bring down its high murder rate. Even though homicides fell 16 percent last year, the third largest U.S. city still ranked No. 1 in murders, with more than the combined total for New York and Los Angeles, the two largest cities.

“This is not about just a march,” one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest, Father Michael Pfleger, told a news conference this week. “This is not about just an interruption of traffic. This is about the violence in the city of Chicago.”

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson were among those who joined the march, which was supported by the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who said on Friday that it was important to raise awareness.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said on Saturday that the protest had caused “chaos”, and he called on Twitter for Emanuel to take “swift and decisive action” so that Chicago residents could feel safe.

Emanuel responded in a tweet: “It was a peaceful protest. Delete your account.”

(The story was refiled to fix a typographical error in the second paragraph)

(Reporting by Miesha Miller in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Franklin Paul and David Gregorio)

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