Protesters in Chicago stage ‘Black Christmas’ in shopping district – Miami Herald

More than a hundred people marched along North Michigan Avenue on Thursday, holding “die-ins” in the street and blocking last-minute shoppers from stores as they staged a “Black Christmas” in response to the Laquan McDonald shooting.

“When one part of Chicago is affected, all of Chicago is affected,” explained one of the demonstrators, Alex Thiedmann. “If I remain silent, I become an oppressor.”

The crowd, surrounded by police on bicycles, stepped off the Michigan Avenue bridge shortly after noon and laid down in the street chanting, “Laquan McDonald on the ground, this is why we lay down.”

Some of the protesters also blocked stores, and some shoppers had to be escorted inside.

Emily Grossman, 36, was kept from getting an iPhone from the Apple Store. “I hate to put myself first, but this is BS,” she said.

Tom Stine, 59, of the Streeterville neighborhood, had to hop out of the way of a siren-equipped police bicyclist. He had just finished shopping for his family at Brooks Brothers.

“It’s no stress. The police and the protesters are very well-behaved,” he said.

Rabiah Muhammad, a second-generation Chicagoan, came downtown for a doctor’s appointment but stopped to watch the protests.

“I was walking down the street and I saw all these beautiful people of all ages and colors,” she said. “I think it’s a bigger problem than the city of Chicago. It’s an American problem. This kind of brutality? That’s not what our country is supposed to be.”

For Connie Mayfield, the protests were a reminder of similar unrest in her hometown of Minneapolis, where protesters Wednesday started a demonstration at the Mall of America before moving to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“Do I think they have something to say? Yes,” she said. “The way they’re doing it I don’t particularly agree with.”

Still, Mayfield said as she hurried down Michigan Avenue with a suitcase, “I think they’re making a statement; I think that’s good.”

The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations in the city since the release last month of police video showing a white officer shooting McDonald, a black 17-year-old, 16 times. Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 killing.

Protesters have been critical of the Police Department’s treatment of suspects, particularly black ones, and have called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign. Many of the protesters Thursday held signs that read “Rahm Resign.”

The Christmas Eve protest was far smaller than the Black Friday protest in November, which was attended by several times as many protesters.

And while North Michigan Avenue store staff last month said the Black Friday protests cost them 25 percent to 50 percent of their expected sales on what is normally the busiest shopping day of the year, the impact on sales Thursday appeared to be minimal.

Sidewalks remained busy with last-minute Christmas shoppers Thursday afternoon, and protesters blocked only a handful of store entrances – including Apple, H&M, Uniqlo, Columbia and the Water Tower Place mall – and only for a few minutes a time. Desperate shoppers simply waited it out, or if they were determined to ignore the protesters, were in most cases allowed to enter the shops without a struggle, sometimes with police assistance.

Store security officers who stood nervously near store entrances, ready to lock doors as protesters passed, were not called into action. In many cases the largest inconvenience to shoppers appeared to come from bicycle-mounted police who whizzed along the sidewalk with their bicycle sirens blaring as they attempted to stay ahead of the protesters.

Most shoppers attributed the headache of being on Michigan Avenue on Thursday to their own failure to go shopping sooner, rather than the peaceful protest.

“I’m a little stressed!” said Anitra Cosby, of Louisiana, who was shopping for a gift for her husband, Todd. “We left it late!”

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