(CBS) Activists shut down part of Michigan Avenue on Black Friday, and marched to Water Tower Place, to protest the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at Pioneer Court, at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River, late Friday morning,
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in McDonald’s death on Oct. 20, 2014. Hours after Van Dyke was charged, city officials released dashboard camera video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times in the span of about 15 seconds on the Southwest Side.
Many activists have called what happened to McDonald a “modern-day lynching.”
Protesters chanted “16 shots, 13 months!” as they marched up Michigan Avenue, referring to the number of times McDonald was shot, and the amount of time it took to file charges against Van Dyke.
The protesters blocked the entrances to several stores by linking arms in front of the doors. Several businesses locked doors to keep protesters out, including Water Tower Place.
Marchers tried to get inside the shopping center, but were kept out by police who held them back, and by locked doors when they were able to slip past police. Protesters also blocked entrances to the Apple store, H&M, Columbia, and several other stores.
The march along the Magnificent Mile comes after two nights of protests downtown after the video of McDonald’s death was made public.
Most of those leading the protests earlier in the week were younger activists, including members of Black Youth Project 100, and used social media to plan rallies and spread their message.
On Friday, several veteran civil rights leaders joined the protests, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop Larry Trotter, and Rev. Mark Barclay, of Trinity United Church of Christ.
So the young people know that we, the old guard, we support them. We’re willing to step back so they could step up,” Barclay said.
Jackson said protesters are seeking significant changes at the Chicago Police Department.
“The police department is corrupted. It’s not just the police chief. In fact, nine or ten other police saw the killing, and did nothing about it. They didn’t arrest him, they didn’t charge him, they covered for him. That has to end,” he said.
Many Chicago police officers were lining Michigan Avenue as protesters marched along the Magnificent Mile. Police have said they will protect protesters’ rights to free speech, but won’t tolerate criminal activity.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said officers have done a “remarkable” job monitoring protests, and making sure they remain peaceful.
“That’s why we’re not having problems that other cities are having, or have had in the past,” McCarthy said before Friday’s march. “We’re going to facilitate the protests. We’re trying to help them do what they want to do, quite frankly, and we’re going to do it in a professional manner; but we will not allow criminal behavior, quite frankly. We’re not going to stand by and watch something happen. We’re not going to let windows get broken, and stand by idly watching it happen. We’re not going to let places get looted. It’s just not going to happen.”
Shortly after 11 a.m., activists began marching north along the middle of Michigan Avenue from Pioneer Court to Water Tower Place, through the heart of arguably the most popular retail district in the city.
When the demonstrators reached Water Tower Place, many tried to push their way inside the shopping center, but found the doors on Michigan Avenue locked.
Activists said the intent of the protest was to slow down business on the Magnificent Mile.
“We have to stop business as usual until we stop police terror,” protest organizer Grant Newburger said.
Despite the crowds of protesters, and cold and rainy weather, plenty of shoppers were still heading into stores on Michigan Avenue, and seemed to be taking things in stride, at least before the protest really caused any disruptions on Michigan Avenue.
“I think it’s those people’s right to protest, and I support their freedom to do that, so I’m just out here getting some shopping done, but good luck to anyone trying to brave the weather. It’s pretty miserable out here,” Andrew Boudwin said.
However, fellow shopper Keefe Powell said the protesters were in the wrong place.
“They need to be with the mayor, City Hall, police department. Department stores have nothing, nothing, nothing to do with this,” he said.
However, protesters have said they specifically targeted the Magnificent Mile because they don’t want it to be business as usual on Black Friday; they want to keep attention on McDonald’s death, and the need for reforms within the Chicago Police Department.
Many have called for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy to resign over their handling of the case.
Bishop Larry Trotter, senior pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church, has endorsed Alvarez’s challenger, Kim Foxx, who said Alvarez took too long to charge Van Dyke with murder.
“See this beautiful black lady? We’re going to put her in Anita’s position,” Trotter said Thursday.
Foxx said Alvarez should have acted sooner to charge Van Dyke, and should have released the controversial dashboard camera video of the shooting much earlier.
“It is the responsibility of the state’s attorney to hold accountable people who do wrong, whether you are gang banger, a police officer, or a politician. That is your job,” Foxx xaid. “Right now, our whole city and our whole criminal justice system is under indictment, because the people who were charged with making sure he was held accountable did it in darkness.”
Trotter also insisted McCarthy must lose his job for not moving to fire Van Dyke.
Activists have said more than 20 misconduct complaints were filed against Van Dyke during his career without him facing any disciplinary action.
“The superintendent needs to be fired, too,” he said.
However, McCarthy said he has no plans to resign, and the mayor has given him has full support.
“I’ve never quit on anything in my life. I’m 56 years old. Don’t expect that to change,” he said. “The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back, and if people peel away the onion on what’s happening right now in the policing world, you’re going to find a police department that’s doing an exceptional job, and quite frankly I’m not going to quit on the people of Chicago, and I’ll never quit on these men and women.”
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