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Antiviolence protesters shut down part of Chicago freeway

Antiviolence protesters filled tthe northbound lanes of Interstate 94 in Chicago Saturday.
Antiviolence protesters filled tthe northbound lanes of Interstate 94 in Chicago Saturday.(Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CHICAGO — Thousands of antiviolence protesters marched along a Chicago interstate on Saturday, shutting down traffic in an effort to draw attention to the gun violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and pressure public officials to do more to stop it.

Marchers chanted ‘‘Stop the killing’’ and carried signs reading ‘‘We need jobs’’ and other messages. Some stopped to scrawl on the road with chalk: ‘‘Enough is enough’’ and ‘‘Peace.’’

Toward the front of the march the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who organized the protest, Chicago police Supt. Eddie Johnson, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms.

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The march took place along the northbound lanes of Interstate 94, known as the Dan Ryan Expressway, after a roughly hourlong standoff between police and the protesters.

Illinois State Police, which had warned earlier in the week that any pedestrian entering the expressway would face arrest, said early Saturday that an agreement had been reached for protesters to march on a portion of the roadway.

Officers and vehicles lined up, forming a barrier to keep protesters in two northbound lanes, allowing some traffic to pass in other northbound lanes.

But Pfleger and protesters insisted there was no agreement and that they would shut down the entire northbound roadway, with Pfleger noting the city closes major roads for parades and other occasions.

The crowd began creeping into other lanes, a situation Pfleger said had the potential to become dangerous.

Illinois State Police, which have jurisdiction over expressways, announced around 11:30 a.m. that they were shutting down all northbound lanes of the expressway. Protesters then began walking northbound along a roughly 1.5-mile route.

Chicago police said the city had 252 homicides and 1,100 shootings in the first six months of this year, a decrease from the same period last year. But those crimes have been heavily concentrated in predominantly black, low-income neighborhoods.

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In a separate development Saturday, a group of conservative students who want to protect Second Amendment rights sponsored rallies in Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, and seven other cities.

The students are calling for the safe, responsible use of guns. They would like to see increased security in schools, including armed guards.