Protest over teen’s killing shuts stores in Chicago’s retail district – Miami Herald
Marchers protesting the killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer took over North Michigan Avenue on Friday at the height of post-Thanksgiving shopping in Chicago’s most famous retail district. They blocked traffic and the entrances to many stores and prompted other businesses to lock their doors in the biggest public display since video of the shooting was released earlier this week.
About 1,000 people took part in the march, including some of the highest-profile protesters since the video was made public Tuesday. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, former mayoral candidate and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis walked with the throng, which pushed off from just north of the Chicago River and congregated in front of Water Tower Place about a mile north.
The protesters then turned their attention to the stores, trying to bring commerce to a halt in the city’s commercial center.
There was an element of the surreal throughout the day. Milling tourists posed for selfies in the middle of Michigan Avenue, which was shut down to vehicles for hours. And people continued making purchases on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, in some cases finding alternate entrances or pushing their way through protesters attempting to stop them from getting inside. After being closed for a time during the protest, The Gap reopened and a DJ led shoppers in the “Cha-Cha Slide” as the chanting for justice for McDonald continued outside.
Many of the protesters said they felt hitting at stores’ bottom lines would get them more attention than simply marching.
“We want to show them how it’s done in Chicago,” one speaker shouted into a megaphone in front of Water Tower Place. “Let them just feel the empty cash registers.”
Marchers tried to get into the mall as police held them back. Protesters also blocked the entrances to Victoria’s Secret, the Apple store, Neiman Marcus and more than a dozen other retailers while chanting “16 shots and a cover-up,” referring to the number of times McDonald was shot. Some stores along Michigan voluntarily locked their doors as the march went past.
“People listen to economics,” protester Chris Lewis said as he joined others blocking the door to the Ralph Lauren store.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the tactic. Angelica Delgado, 29, from the city’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, said barring shoppers from stores was “ignorant” and that they should keep their protest on the street.
“Other people shouldn’t have to pay for what happened to him,” she said. “I feel sorry for him, and what they did is wrong, but don’t take away other people’s freedom.”
The video has drawn nationwide attention to the 17-year-old’s October 2014 death, and the march Friday along the Magnificent Mile on a cold, wet day was the most prominent demonstration by those critical of the incident and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s response to it.
Marchers carried signs calling for the creation of a community police accountability council. They chanted, “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”
Carolyn Johnson, 53, of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, said she came downtown to press for the firing of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez because it took so long for charges to be brought against Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald.
“This is what they need to do: Clear the air, make it clean. Don’t go halfway, go all the way,” Johnson said.
Protests in recent days have been largely peaceful. Police made a handful of arrests during downtown marches south of the Chicago River since the release of the video. On Friday, police said three people were taken into custody at the Michigan Avenue march, two for traffic incidents and one for a simple battery. Charges were pending.
Friday’s demonstrators included a large contingent from the Chicago Teachers Union, which mobilized opposition to Emanuel’s re-election bid early this year.
“I’m outraged,” said Gabriel Sheridan, a teacher at Ray Elementary School in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. “The mistreatment of people and corruption in this city, I don’t think it’s specific to Chicago but I’m pretty outraged that my students have to live in fear every day.
“The path forward is to keep people united, to keep people watching out for each other, to try to teach people to treat each other with respect and kindness.”
After announcing that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis would attend the Friday event, CTU officials later said she was not on hand. The union’s vice president, Jesse Sharkey, did take part.
Critics of the city’s handling of the investigation into the shooting have asked why it took Emanuel so long to release the video, and why he did so only in response to a judge’s order that the mayor’s administration spent months fighting. And they have asked why Van Dyke continued to collect a paycheck for more than a year after he shot McDonald near 41st Street and Pulaski Road.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder this week by Alvarez. The charges came just hours before the court-ordered release of the dashboard camera video that shows the officer shooting McDonald, who was holding a knife and had PCP in his system at the time of his death.
Protesters have called for the firing of McCarthy and for an independent prosecutor to look into Alvarez’s handling of the situation. Emanuel has said he will stand behind McCarthy.
Van Dyke, 37, is being held without bond pending a hearing Monday when a judge in the case will view the video. The officer is no longer being paid by the Chicago Police Department.