'Black Friday' protest of police shooting shuts main Chicago shopping street

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 27, 2015 10:28 AM

By Mary Wisniewski and Nick Carey

CHICAGO (Reuters) - On one of the busiest U.S. retails days, thousands of people took to Chicago's most prestigious downtown shopping district on Friday to protest last year's shooting death of a black teenager by a white policeman and the city's handling of the case.

About 2,000 people with signs reading "Stop Police Terror" gathered in a cold drizzle for the march on Chicago's "Magnificent Mile" on the Black Friday shopping day, which closed the major city street of Michigan Avenue to traffic.

Organizers said the rally, led by activist-politician the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several state elected officials, is a show of outrage over the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, and what they see as racial bias in U.S. policing.

Protesters also called for the resignation of the police superintendent and a top prosecutor for what they see as foot-dragging and stonewalling in the case.

The police officer who shot McDonald 16 times, Jason Van Dyke, 37, was charged with first-degree murder hours before a graphic video of the shooting was made public on Tuesday.

"It's unconscionable that the police officer who killed Laquan McDonald was able to sit at a desk for over a year and draw a paycheck," said James Hinton, 49, who joined the march holding a sign that read: "13 months, 16 shots."

The protesters chanted "Stop the cover up, 16 shots," as they marched along Michigan Avenue.

Shoppers on the second and third floors of a Crate & Barrel could be seen lining up along windows taking pictures with their phones of throngs of protesters in the streets.


Shortly before the rally, Chicago police said they had arrested and charged one man with the fatal shooting of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee and that at least two others were also involved.

The shooting was a separate incident this month that garnered much attention because police said the boy appeared to have been killed in an act of retribution against his gang-member father.

The downtown Chicago demonstration comes three days after police, acting under a court order, released footage from a dashboard-mounted video camera that captured the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting death of McDonald.

Emergence of the tape had already sparked two nights of mostly peaceful and relatively small-scale demonstrations in the city, during which nine arrests were reported by police. Despite calls on social media for protesters to turn out for Chicago's annual Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday, no rallies materialized.

But city officials have given no detailed explanation for why the footage came without any discernible audio that is supposed to be recorded with the video.

African-American members of the City Council have repeatedly called for the resignation of Police Superintendent McCarthy.

"The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back," McCarthy told a news conference.

"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," he said.

In a statement on Thursday endorsing the planned Unity March & Rally in Memory of Laquan McDonald, the Chicago Teachers Union called for Cook County's chief prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, to step down as well.

A Facebook page posted by march organizers listed additional demands including the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate questionable circumstances in the case, and a special election to choose a new state's attorney for the county.

Organizers also called for the ouster of anyone else found to be involved in misconduct surrounding the case, and the "demilitarization" of the Chicago Police Department.

"We have watched in anger and disappointment as the city has covered up police violence," teachers union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. He accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of delaying release of the videos during his campaign for re-election, which he won in April.

Emanuel and other officials said they delayed making the tapes public to avoid tainting the investigation of Van Dyke.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and Nick Carey; Writing by Steve Gorman and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)