This past weekend, Chicago partially shut down the expressway. The reason, a “gun violence protest” march that included thousands of people, a lot of signs, and little else.
Thousands of protesters against Chicago’s pervasive gun violence on Saturday partially shut down a major expressway in the third-largest US city, which leads the country in murders.
The demonstrators, led by a local pastor known for decades of anti-violence advocacy in Chicago’s hard-scrabble South Side, completely closed off one side of the Dan Ryan Expressway for about an hour.
The major artery bisects the city’s southern urban core which is home to a predominantly African American population and several communities where gun violence, fueled mostly by drugs and turf wars among small gangs, is a part of everyday life.
“Today, we got [politicians’] attention,” Father Michael Pfleger told WLS-TV.
“The people won today, because the people showed up…saying we’re tired of the damned violence in Chicago,” he said.
The mid-western city had 254 murders and 1,114 shootings to July 1 this year, according to police. While murders are down 23% compared to the same period last year, Chicago still has the most of any other city in the country.
And I’m sure those perpetrating that violence are shaking in their boots at Pfleger’s comments. Meanwhile, the good father might want to keep a closer eye on his own security.
My question is, what was the point of this? I mean, absolutely no one is going to counter-protest in favor of violence, now are they?
Instead, this is grandstanding. This is a feel-good measure that allows Pfleger and company to pretend that all their work is really about curbing violence, but if anyone thinks this will have any kind of impact, they’re deluding themselves.
The violence in Chicago isn’t going to go away because of a few protests. Almost everyone who engages in it thinks they’re justified. No one is expressing a pro-violence ideology that simply needs to be countered sufficiently. There’s no counter movement calling for more violence. In fact, ending violence is one thing we’re all pretty unified over.
Where we disagree is on how to end it.
Protest marches that halt traffic won’t accomplish much of anything except to inconvenience people who aren’t responsible and to make it look like you’re doing something when you’re not. Protests only work if they can change people’s minds. The thing is, marching down the expressway, holding up signs and pretending you’re brave for your stand doesn’t do anything.
Yes, people feel better about themselves. They can say they’re sending a message to the thugs and criminals, too. They’re not, but I get that they’re trying.
What they don’t get is that the criminals don’t give a damn. They’re not impressed. They figure that if you want to end violence, you’ll take care of their competition for them so they won’t have to. They sure as hell aren’t going to budge.
So while Pfleger and company are patting themselves on the back for their hard work, people are still going to die in Chicago. They’re going to die because people like Pfleger have dedicated their lives to ignoring the reality that the tools aren’t the problem. They refuse to delve into the roots of violence in Chicago to figure out how to really end it.
Of course, it’s not like they actually care about any of that.