Reflecting on Shutting Down The Dan Ryan

I've always told my students,

"Don't just read about history someone else is making.  Make some yourself."

Yesterday felt like history being made.  It felt momentous.  In the wake of the March For Our Lives movement, and the new explosion of youth engagement, it felt like so many pages coming together.

Now, I'm no stranger to protesting.  I first became politically involved and aware during the Bush years....no, not the 1st Bush.  I'm not that old.  The son of a Bush....yeah, that guy.  I was in the Army.  I was pretty certain we were being lied to about weapons of mass destruction, and as my world, my life was turned upside down, I wasn't excited at the prospect of being killed over bullshit.

I've always maintained that protests, marches, and rallies are as much for the people participating as for the onlooker.  When you ask people to come out, and to stand together...there's power in that.  There's empowerment in that.

I don't think I can accurately describe how it feels.  Some people get loud; boisterous.  I rarely chant in marches and protests.  I get quiet.  I like to listen.  I like to hear...I let the words of others wash over me.  Empowering...that's the best word I can use.

I loved the idea that Father Pfleger set forth in the pre-march press conference, in borrowing a page from the civil rights movement.  You have to understand that St. Sabina, under the leadership of Father Michael Pfleger, has marches every Friday night over the summer.  You have to understand that St. Sabina has a group inside of it, Purpose over Pain, that is comprised of parents who have lost children to gun violence. Father Pfleger himself lost a foster son to gun violence in 1998.  This topic, of gun violence, of losing our kids and brothers and sisters and parents is not theoretical, it's real for so many people who were out there on the Dan Ryan for this march. I actually spent a good portion of the march walking behind Alan Scott, the father of Kaylyn Pryor, a budding model who was shot and killed back in 2015 at the age of 19.

And the city has ignored the cries from so many people for real investment to decrease gun violence in this city. Instead of closing schools, the city needs to invest in ALL schools, not just the selective enrollment ones.  The city needs to invest in healthcare facilities, servicing community members for both physical and mental trauma. The city needs to invest in jobs programs, real jobs, in the most economically depressed neighborhoods in the city, as well as giving tax credits to businesses opening in those communities.  Businesses can flourish in impoverished communities.  The best example that comes to mind is Kusanya Cafe in the Englewood neighborhood.  It's an amazing place that helps uplift the community and the people in it. ::Sidenote: (The city also needs more affordable housing!)

The city also needs to scrap their current plans of spending $95M on a new police academy.  The safety of Chicago citizens and youth is more important.

Governor Rauner needs to stop kowtowing to the National Rifle Associaiton and supporting the bipartisan common sense gun legislation that he has already vetoed once, and some of which is currently sitting on his desk.

And when they ignore you...you go bigger.  This event was national news.  #DanRyanShutDown had been tweeted 12.8K times and was trending in the midst of the event.

And allow us to make note that the world did not end, half the city didn't burn a fiery death nor did a scourge of violent crime suddenly befall parts of the city because the Dan Ryan was shut down.  Coincidentally, it shut down again hours later when a helicopter crashed on it.

The energy was positive.  The show of force by the Chicago Police Department and the State Police was unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime however.  I will state that.  People were taken aback by the lines of officers, stretching at least a quarter of a mile, along with IDOT dump trucks, and police buses.

People were prepared to be arrested.  The crowd was immensely diverse, and of course, you never know what can happen...but much like our counterparts of the civil rights area, we weren't willing to be denied. We were not going to be turned back, and we could not be moved.

They said no...and we said yes.

Of course, people have a litany of negative things to say about the event.  However, I cling to the idea that this stance, this desire to see Chicago be a more equitable and equal city for everyone is right. How could wanting everyone to be on more equal footing, wanting children and families safe, wanting all neighborhoods to flourish, be a bad thing?

Beyond that, all movements similar to this had naysayers. As my friend Dennis recently said on Facebook:

 I wonder how "stupid" the sit-ins and bus boycotts were seen to be by those that didn't participate or held a far worse sentiment concerning the civil disobedience. Good thing those people did all that "stupid" stuff, at least it moved the mark just a bit.

If what I'm participating in can be compared to that, I'm in good company.
#ChicagoStandUp

Finally, a special thank you to Jill Pfeiffer for contributing to my photos of the event! You can see all my photos and video at my instagram, as well as the instagram of Chicago Stand Up! 

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