CHICAGO - Two of the city's best-known activists wound up in police custody Saturday after a protest against gun violence outside a suburban gun store.
Revs. Jesse Jackson and Michael Pfleger, a South Side priest, were arrested about 1:30 p.m. for trespassing outside Chuck's Gun Shop in south suburban Riverdale, authorities said.
Though the arrests resulted in a minor charge for each man, it provided yet another platform from which to denounce the gun violence they say is plaguing the streets of Chicago.
As the two men were released from custody about 3 p.m., they walked triumphantly to the front of the Riverdale police station, where they were met by more than 50 cheering supporters, clapping and singing, "Victory Is Mine."
"We really didn't come to get arrested, but to continue our process," Jackson said of his campaign against gun violence.
It was the third consecutive Saturday that Jackson and his supporters rallied in front of the gun shop at 14310 Indiana Ave. Gun sales are banned in Chicago, but Jackson said suburban stores offer city dwellers easy access to firearms.
"The suburbs have surrounded the city with these gun shops," he said. "Jobs are going out, guns are coming in." "Chuck's becomes the poster boy for this issue," Pfleger added. "We need tougher gun laws so the kids are not dying in the streets."
The protest drew activists from both sides of the divide: Three school buses filled with anti-gun activists joined forces with Jackson and Pfleger, while nearly 30 pro-gun activists packed into the gun store, where rows of new and used handguns and rifles line glass display cases.
Police said Jackson was arrested after he and his supportx ers crowded the entrance and refused to leave. Owner John Riggio said he told Jackson and Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church, that they could enter the store but that he would only let the two in.
"I was going to explain to Jackson and Father Pfleger how to get a gun license and explain to them how the laws work, basically go through a regular sale with them," Riggio said.
But Jackson said he felt threatened by the activists inside the shop and described the scene inside as "hostile, dangerous and life-threatening."
Riggio said he then told them they had to clear the doorway and signaled to the police to intervene.
The police told Jackson and Pfleger that if they did not stop blocking the entrance they would be arrested, police and witnesses said.
"[They] again refused, and both were taken into custody and charged with one count each of criminal trespass to property," according to the Riverdale police statement.
During the confrontation in front of the gun store, Jackson and Riggio said there was physical contact between them. Jackson said Riggio pushed him. Riggio said that Jackson bumped him first, but that he didn't remember exactly what happened.
Video footage captured by CLTV shows Jackson and Riggio standing close together in front of the entrance. Though the video obscures their contact, Jackson says after moving backward, "You really shouldn't push me." Riggio responds, "You really shouldn't block the doorway, either."
Shortly thereafter, police handcuff Jackson and Pfleger and lead them to a police wagon.
"He was inviting violence," Jackson said. "He should have been arrested."
Jackson attempted to press battery charges against the owner after the Riverdale police chief reviewed the CLTV video of the incident. The department declined to arrest Riggio, but took statements from Jackson, Pfleger and witnesses from their entourage.
"We intend to escalate our struggle," Jackson said. "We intend to come back on Friday."
Riggio had no comment about Jackson's attempt to press charges.
Jackson has been arrested more than 15 times during his career as an activist, and some skeptics suggested that the arrest was geared to garner attention for his campaign.
"I think he's grandstanding," said David Lawson, a customer at the gun store. "There was no reason for him to get arrested. It's just a useless gesture."
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune