There was a significant West Side presence at Thursday’s protest march that shut down Lake Shore Drive and ended outside of Wrigley Field.
The march, organized by Rev. Greg Livingston and Tio Hardiman, had the backing of the Leaders Network — the influential faith-based social justice organization.
Leaders Network co-chairmen Rev. Ira Acree and Rev. Marshall Hatch each said a prayer at different points during the march, which emphasized the stark economic differences between the city’s predominantly white North Side and its predominantly black South and West Sides.
The demonstration’s leaders also took pains to point out how the Aug. 2 march was different from a major anti-violence march led by Father Michael Pfleger in June that ultimately resulted in the partial closing of the Dan Ryan.
That march featured Pfleger locking arms with Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson. Emanuel was also vocally supportive of the demonstration.
In his office a few hours before the start of Thursday’s North Side march, Acree said that Hardiman and Livingston, did not want the support of the city’s governing and law enforcement leadership. At Thursday’s protest, in fact, many demonstrators loudly called for Emanuel’s ouster.
“We don’t just talk about policy or police corruption, we talk about policy makers, because policies are not impersonal,” Acree said. “So their names are being called. In the Bible days, Moses called Pharoah’s name, Jesus called Herod’s name, Dr. King called Bull Conner’s name and we’re calling Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s name.”
Acree, the pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, decried what he described as Emanuel’s practice of taking TIF dollars from the South and West Sides and pouring them into North Side developments. He also blasted the mayor for suppressing the dashcam footage of the murder of Laquan McDonald in the wake of his reelection campaign.
“The mayor is the face of police corruption,” Acree said. “When he fired Garry McCarthy, after much pressure, he himself assembled a blue ribbon task force and empowered them with the assignment of choosing three candidates to be the new police superintendent.
“They spent thousands of taxpayer money and vetted candidates from across the nation. They brought back three candidates who were vetted and proven reformers. The mayor didn’t want a reformer. He dismissed it and picked a guy who was just a rank-and-file guy. That’s an illegitimate superintendent.”
Sharon Jones, a member of Greater St. John who lives on the West Side, explained her decisions for attending the march as she waited to board a bus from the church.
“I’m attending because of the closing of schools in black and brown communities,” Jones said. “Rahm, after he hid that tape the last election, needs to go. We need to put as much attention on him as possible and everybody needs to remember what he did.”
Jones said that she didn’t consider Pfleger’s march a legitimate act of civil disobedience.
“How do you have a march with the people whose policies you’re fighting against? That’s a parade,” she said, “that’s not a march.”
Rev. Gerald Wilson, a minister at Greater St. John, said as he waited to board a bus that he would be willing to get arrested during the demonstration.
“Where we live, there’s police brutality and injustice,” Wilson said. “I’m already in harm’s way. What more can happen? Somebody needs to do something. Too many people are standing back. They’re hiding in fear. It disturbs me.”