Photo by Joe Boyle
A man who referred to himself as Dan from Chicago Ridge shows support for the police. He was marching up and down 95th Street near Chicago Ridge Mall as a scheduled Black Lives Matter protest march did not materialize.
By Joe Boyle
A Black Lives Matter protest march planned for Saturday afternoon did not materialize, but the Chicago Ridge Police Department was ready just in case.
A flyer for the protest march began circulating on neighborhood Facebook groups on Friday for the event that was supposed to begin at 3:30 p.m. near the Sears entrance of Chicago Ridge Mall.
The route of the march changed a couple of times before the protest was scheduled to begin. The march was scheduled to travel along the sidewalks down 95th Street through Oak Lawn and then proceed north along 95th and Cicero through Burbank. The march was then going to return along the same path to the Chicago Ridge Mall.
However, only a handful of protesters showed after the scheduled time.
Stephany Ochoa was holding a megaphone and waiting outside Sears at Chicago Ridge Mall Saturday afternoon. Ochoa, 24, a resident of Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood, said she marched in several protests this summer and wanted to organize an event that began at the mall. She posted information about the march on Facebook during the week.
"We just want to get the conversation going," said Ochoa. "We want to create dialogue and have people talk about this. And sometimes that makes people feel uncomfortable to have the conversations, but they have to take place."
While Ochoa was waiting for more protesters to arrive, a couple of men were walking up and down 95th Street. One man carried an American flag as several motorists beeped their horns in approval.
Another individual, who described himself only as Dan from Chicago Ridge, was holding a Blue Lives Matter flag. Again, many motorists honked their approval as he walked up and down 95th Street. He was asked to provide his thoughts about the series of demonstrations that have taken place this summer and the police.
"Well, let's put it this way," he said. "If there are bad teachers, you get rid of them and get new ones. There is bad in everything. Same thing with police. If you have bad ones, you get rid of them."
Dan said he has nothing against the protesters but believes that the police overall are doing a good job.
"They have every right to protest," Dan said. "I'm just getting tired of this. I mean I see their viewpoint. That's why we live in America."
In any event, Chicago Ridge police were not taking any chances. While owners of the Chicago Ridge Mall continued to keep the stores open, police barricaded the entrances and exits along 95th Street outside of the Sears in case some groups planned to hijack what was scheduled to be a peaceful protest.
Dump trucks from the Chicago Ridge Public Works Department were positioned to keep incoming traffic out that planned to enter from 95th Street. The other entrances of the mall remained open. Oak Lawn police were informed about the march.
"We don't know what to expect," said Chicago Ridge Police Chief Rob Pyznarski as he continued to monitor the situation, driving slowly through the mall parking lot. "We heard about this on social media and Facebook. They (the protesters) never contacted me about this and I'm the chief of police."
Pyznarski's concerns were due to the fact that a physical altercation took place recently at Orland Square Mall. The Chicago Ridge Mall had closed in May following the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. The mall closed early on another occasion this past summer due to reports over social media about possible looting that could take place in the village. The mall closed early another time this summer due to a fight that broke in the eatery.
Besides those incidents, no other reports of physical confrontations or damage to property has taken place at the Chicago Ridge Mall, Pyznarski said.
"Hopefully, everything remains peaceful," Pyznarski said. "But we are ready."
Several more protesters finally joined Ochoa outside Sears. Including Ochoa, there were five altogether. While plans for a march were scrapped, Ochoa and the small group did walk along outside the mall and Ridgeland Avenue to make their feelings known about the series of shootings of Black men by police this past spring and summer.
While some passerby agreed with their call for defunding police, the majority disapproved as Ochoa shouted out comments through her megaphone.
"I have been in several protests this summer at several places and organized one at Bogan Park," said Ochoa, a graduate of Curie High School. "This is hard for some people. Some people have asked me why we protest here? And I say why not? Everybody needs to hear this. We need to get the word out everywhere."