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Chicago anti-violence protesters want entire city to ‘feel our pain’

Anti-violence protesters in Chicago took to the streets Thursday in numbers they hoped would shut down one of the city's major arteries in a more affluent section of the city during the afternoon rush hour. Planners hope to highlight the city's inattention to the needs of low-income residents and the gun violence they feel is a byproduct of that neglect. Amna Nawaz talks with Rev. Ira Acree.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Anti-violence protesters in Chicago took to the streets today in numbers they hoped would shut down one of the city's major arteries during the afternoon rush hour.

    Amna Nawaz has the story.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, it's the second protest in less than a month. And, this time, it's happening along Lake Shore Drive, and in a more affluent section of the city's North Side.

    Protesters will head toward Wrigley Field as well, where the Cubs are playing tonight. It comes as Chicago marks its 300th homicide of the year. Planners hope to highlight the city's inattention to the needs of its low-income residents and the gun violence they feel is a byproduct of that neglect.

    Before the protests began, I spoke with one organizer, the Reverend Ira Acree of the Greater St. John Bible Church.

    Reverend Acree, welcome to the "NewsHour."

    I want to ask you, there was another anti-violence protest less than a month ago, this one shutting down traffic on the interstate. This one was on the south side of town, though. Today you're in a different part of town. Why there, and why now?

  • Rev. Ira Acree:

    Today, we want to paint a vivid image of a tale of two cities.

    We want those who are on the North Side, who he been insulated from the violence, we want them to be able to feel our pain. We want to expose the fact that Mayor Emanuel has effectively created strategic gentrification and has ultimately committed what I want to call economic violence, because he has disinvested in our schools.

    Fifty schools closed in black and brown neighborhoods. And mental health institutions close. And we just believe it's time for the entire city, especially those in affluent neighborhoods, to know what's going on, on the other side of town.

    We're one city. It's a tale of two cities. And we need justice for all Chicagoans.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Reverend Acree, the things you were listing there, those are chronic crises that cities like Chicago deal with regularly, right, economic investment, lack of education investment. Violence is also one you have mentioned.

    Is this really an anti-violence march or is it an anti-leadership march?

  • Rev. Ira Acree:

    No, it's an anti-violence march. And it's also an anti-administration march.

    Nowhere in the nation have they ever closed 50 schools at one time. That's apartheid. That's ridiculous. It's unacceptable it. And also we keep having these issues of police murders. Maybe there is a leadership challenge, mayor and superintendent. A lot of toxicity at the top.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    You and other leaders have called for the resignation of both of those men, of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police superintendent, Eddie Johnson.

    Tell me specifically, Reverend Acree, what steps have you wanted to see from both of those men that you haven't yet seen?

  • Rev. Ira Acree:

    Well, we have not gotten the economic investment on the South and West Side.

    Really, if there are more jobs on the South and West Side, that will help reduce the violence by a significant amount. We also want him to use some of the money to help the poor. This mayor doesn't have a vision that includes us. He has locked us out, even though we put him in office.

    African-Americans made the difference in the last mayoral election. It's just ruthless for him to just write us off. That's why we don't want his endorsement. We do not want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement. We don't need symbolism. We need substance.

    I mean, don't give this tangible — intangible stuff. It means nothing.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Reverend Acree, the mayor's office would say that they have taken steps, that they have agreed to additional reforms, to new training, to more oversight.

    What would you say to that?

  • Rev. Ira Acree:

    This mayor has been very effective in doing what's politically expedient for him.

    After the Laquan McDonald police cover-up was revealed, he used the taxpayers' dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars he used to put together a blue panel — a blue-ribbon panel to go out and do a national search. They vetted candidates from all over the country.

    They came back with three proven reformers. He threw the names out. He suspended the rules in City Council and picked the guy that he knew and he felt comfortable with it. Illegitimacy.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Reverend Acree, on a day like today, this march starts off right as rush hour kicks off. There's a Cubs game tonight. There's a big music festival on its first day also taking place in Chicago.

    On a day like today, what does success look like for you and the other protesters? What do you want to see happen?

  • Rev. Ira Acree:

    Both sides of town are talking about being one city.

    We're all God's children. Everybody should have the right to equity. This shouldn't be poverty on this side of town and economic boom on the other side of town. Safe communities. Professional police who know how to de-escalate situations, rather than police on our side of town who profile and incite the particular residents to be divisive or to fight back.

    A success today is really us speaking up and unveiling the tale of the two cities, the lack of justice on West and South Side. That would be a great success.

    And then, also, if we can get some black-led anti-violence initiatives talked about, I think that would be very crucial, very crucial.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Reverend Ira Acree, thank you for your time.

  • Rev. Ira Acree:

    God bless you.

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