About 200 demonstrators briefly shutdown Chicago's Lake Shore Drive as they marched through one of the city's more affluent neighborhoods Thursday to draw attention to gun violence in the city's poorer areas. Organizers hoped the march would draw attention to violence, corruption and the lack of economic investment in the city's African-American neighborhoods. The protesters also demanded the resignation of police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for failure to stem gun violence.
The strategy, made famous during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, has gained steam lately as protesters speak out on such issues as police brutality, racism, immigration, and even Confederate monuments.
The death toll from gun violence in the U.S. totals more than 8,000 so far this year, revealing the ongoing gun violence in the country. According to data from the non-profit group Gun Violence Archive, 196 mass shooting incidents have occurred this year with 8,345 fatalities so far. More than a half century after police attacked protesters as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, massive crowds are marching in such cities as St. Louis, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, blocking traffic and shutting down businesses.
"In the last few years, yes, more of these are definitely happening," said Stefan Bradley, who chairs the African American Studies department at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "The biggest ally of the civil rights movement was the press, the media, and these younger activists are savvy with regards to garnering the kind of attention from the media that make local issues national issues."
In Chicago, weeks after protesters shut down traffic on an interstate on the city's South Side to draw attention to gun violence in poor neighborhoods, another group of protesters was doing the same Thursday with a march along Lake Shore Drive to Wrigley Field.
"I'm hoping we have enough to...block traffic, to be a disruptive force" said the Rev. Gregory Livingston, one of the organizers of the march. "This is an act of civil disobedience."
As in many major cities, much of the violence that plagues Chicago happens in pockets of the city where both tourists and many residents rarely venture. So, to reach those people, organizers figured that there was no better place to bring their message than a road that brings people to the city's beaches, gleaming skyscrapers trendy restaurants and famed baseball stadium.
"Where can we make people most uncomfortable?" asked Livingston. "You want to go where they chill out and relax."
It is a playbook followed by countless protests, including the one staged last fall in St. Louis when demonstrators angry over the acquittal of a former police officer in the fatal shooting of a black suspect descended on the downtown area. Within hours, they'd blocked traffic, prompted restaurants and bars to shut down, and even forced the rock band U2 to call off a concert that would have drawn 50,000 fans to the area.