Pain. The idea was to redistribute the pain from the Southside to the Northside. To accomplish that task, the organizers of yet another Stop-the-Violence march planned to shut down Lake Shore Drive during today’s evening rush hour, and then march to Wrigley Field, opening up the possibility that the marchers would force their way into the stadium during the Cubs-Padres game scheduled for 7:05 PM. To add to the hoped-for-chaos, the organizers refused to obtain permits or consult with the Chicago Police Department. And why should they ask permission from Mayor Rahm Emanuel or Police Chief Eddie Johnson? After all, the demonstrators were calling on both to resign.
I spoke with one police superintendent who told me that the police department was in the dark, not knowing how many people would participate or exactly when the march would begin. To him, that was absurd. He seemed to agree with me that the City had conceded Lake Shore Drive, but that if there were going to be arrests, those would occur at Wrigley Field if the demonstrators made a move on the ballpark.
The march was a colossal failure from every conceivable standpoint. First, and foremost, only 150 or so marchers showed up, many brought in on three or four school buses. Gun violence is a pressing problem, as the statistics and headlines make all too clear, but it doesn’t appear to be a grievous problem if only 150 people out of the hundreds of thousands who live daily in violence-plagued South and Westside neighborhoods show up to a march that has captured headlines for the last two weeks in Chicago’s media. Members of the media and the police far outnumbered the demonstrators.
Where were Reverend Jesse Jackson, Father Michael Pfleger, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, or Congressman Bobby Rush? It is inexcusable that these leaders and their supporters were no-shows even if there are rivalries or disagreements over tactics.
Second, the immediate objective—making the Northside feel pain—went unmet. By my estimate, Lake Shore Drive was closed for about 45-minutes, and that was only from the Irving Park to the Fullerton entrance ramps. The police kept the Drive open until the speakers, who were confined to a small strip of land just to the west of the Belmont southbound entrance to the drive, had completed their remarks. It was only then that the line of police blocking access to entrance ramp fell back. The demonstrators then walked up the southbound entrance, over the bridge spanning Belmont, and down the southbound Belmont exit ramp—at most a quarter of a mile.
More to the point, the organizers were naïve about the ways of the world that marginalizes them and their supporters. Undoubtedly, many of the lawyers, accountants, architects, brokers, bankers, and marketing executives chose to work at home today. Many of those who did head to the Loop today used public transit in lieu of their cars. And then there was the 10% of the workforce who were on summer vacation. Some of those who decided to brave the traffic most likely found a bar or restaurant, or took a stroll on the Riverwalk before heading home.
Third, despite heavy media presence, the editors decided that the event didn’t warrant much coverage after the fact. The local CBS outlet led the 10:00 PM news with coverage of Lollapalooza. The march organizers had called on performers to boycott the festival, but the video footage showed plenty of performers strumming guitars and singing to an enthusiastic crowd.
And yet there was pain in evidence today. Lots of it. The demonstrators were clearly comprised of poor people who are trapped in bullet-ridden poverty. Hard-scrabbled in appearance, many of the demonstrators were more than happy to talk with the media or grab a bullhorn. They were articulate in describing their plight, one woman holding a photograph of her grandson who had been killed, others recounting police violence that they and loved ones had experienced, and many visibly upset about the failure of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Chief Eddie Johnson to stop the bloodshed. These people were in pain. One man wept and wailed hysterically, claiming to be a veteran.
Visibly absent today were the tens of thousands who have showed up for the Women’s March, the March for Science, the march against the Muslim travel ban, the march protesting the separation of refugee parents from children, and the march organized and inspired by the Parkland, Florida high school students to advocate for sensible gun control.
I suspect some of those marchers were in the bars lining Clark Street in Wrigleyville and looking down from the stadium as today's marchers arrived at the corner of Addison and Clark, where a police horse brigade awaited them, along with lines of police and metal barricades. For many other Cubs fans, the protesters were a novelty act. They had certainly seen the anti-Trump demonstrations on television, but had never experienced a demonstration up close and personal. It was just before 6:00 PM, so why not spend the hour before the first pitch with a beer in hand taking in the sights and sounds below?
Some demonstrators wrote slogans in colorful chalk on the sidewalks and in the street below, the organizers made a few largely inaudible remarks, and some spoke to the press. At 6:15 PM or thereabouts, I walked with organizer Tio Hardimen to the buses that lined Addison west of the Taco Bell stand and in front of Yesterday's, a memorabilia shop that specializes in old magazines, newspapers, movie posters, sports banners, buttons, and other ephemera. Hardimen either told one of his followers or a member of the media that he had had enough for one day. It was hot and humid, as his sweat-soaked shirt aptly demonstrated.
By 6:30 PM, only a small hard core group remained at the corner of Addison and Clark. Cubs fans were streaming into the ballpark.
Post Script: Friday morning's headline in the Chicago Tribune was devoted to the weekend music festival that takes over Grant Park every year. Below the fold was an article described Mayor Eamanuel's proposal for a $10 million revamp of the Riverwalk east of Michigan Avenue. It is not up to the standards set by the new portion that runs west of Michigan Avenue. At 4:46 PM, the Chicago Tribune posted an article entitled, 8 Wounded in City Shootings Since Friday Morning. Chicago is expecting record high temperatures this weekend, which, if experience holds true, means more shootings throughout the weekend.
Tow Zone on the Southbound Entrance to Lake Shore Drive
The Bicycle Cops Are Ready
The Media Is Ready
The Man in the White Suit and Hat, With a White Bullhorn
Believes He is Making a Compelling Case
Tio Hardiman and Friends Head to Lake Shore Drive
The Evening Rush Hour
Stepping Up to Support the Demonstrators and Their Cause
"Protect" Headed Into the Afternoon Light
Determined and Dignified
Guarding the Friendly Confines
The Intersection of Trump and Wrigley
A Question or a Statement?
Tio Hardiman Speaks to NBC News 5 at the End of a Humid Day
The School Buses Wait to Carry the Demonstrators Back to the Southside
Almost Done For the Night
Photographer's Notes. To put it bluntly, there were too many photographers out there today, and not enough demonstrators. Photographically, that is a problem, at least for me. It makes it impossible to get clean backgrounds. I certainly can't tell anyone to stay home, but I wish the people with iPhones and point and shoot cameras would find something else to do. They have no sense of photographic etiquette. They just step into other people's shots. I and the other photographers I regularly see at protests and demonstrations do that on occasion, but at least we have some situational awareness so as to minimize such transgressions. And when we are aware that we did it, we offer an apology.