Motorists flock to Chicago area gas stations for free fuel

Associated Press

Chicago – Long lines of cars stretched for blocks near Chicago-area gas stations on Thursday, signaling that a businessman who has made repeated runs for local and national office was footing the bill for motorists to top off their tanks for a second time.

Willie Wilson was giving gas away to motorists who showed up at four dozen gas stations. Some drivers waited for more more than an hour to collect their $50 worth of gasoline.

Businessman and former Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson pumps donated gas for a driver at a BP gas station Thursday, March 24, 2022 in Cicero, Ill. Wilson was giving gas away to motorists who showed up at four dozen gas stations.

Motorists could keep filling up for free until Wilson’s tab reached $1 million.

Gas prices have been rising nationwide. On Thursday, the cost of gas inched close to $5 per gallon in the Chicago metro area, up from a little more than $3 a year ago, according to AAA.

Former Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson was giving gas away to motorists who showed up at four dozen gas stations. Some drivers waited for more more than an hour to collect their $50 worth of gasoline.

Chicago police said the giveaway slowed traffic Thursday morning but that the department has not received any reports of fights, automobile collisions or other major problems related to the giveaway.

For some Chicago residents, the free gas amounted to a lifeline because money is particularly tight.

“It means a lot,” said Jacalyne Verduzco, 25, who drove to a station on the South Side for free gas. “It’s, it’s, you know, right now with gas going up and, you know, my husband is barely, you know, we’re barely making ends meet and everything.”

Jesse Morales, 28,  shakes hands with with businessman and former Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson after Morales was the first person to get donated gas pumped by Wilson at a BP gas station, Thursday, March 24, 2022 in Cicero, Ill.

Wilson, 73, conducted another gas giveaway on March 17, offering $200,000 of gas from 10 Chicago gas stations. The giveaway led to gridlock, bad tempers and resident concerns about the environmental cost of idling engines in their neighborhoods.

Wilson is a self-made millionaire who has run for mayor of Chicago, the U.S. Senate and even president of the United States. He has opened his wallet before to help people out, including to post bail for people at Cook County Jail and to donate money to homeowners to help them pay their property tax bills.

The city faces another mayoral election in 2023.