Chicago protesters block store entrances

People block a Chicago street Friday during a demonstration billed as a “march for justice.”

CHICAGO -- Hundreds of protesters blocked store entrances and shut down four lanes of traffic in Chicago's ritziest shopping district on Black Friday to draw attention to the 2014 police killing of a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white officer.


Demonstrators shrugged off a cold drizzle to turn the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season on Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile into a high-profile platform from which to deliver their message: The killing of Laquan McDonald, 17, was another example of what they say is the systemic disregard police show for the lives and rights of black people.

They chanted "16 shots! 16 shots!" and stopped traffic for blocks to express their anger over the Oct. 20, 2014, killing of McDonald and the subsequent investigation, which they say was mishandled.

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.

Prosecutors charged the officer, Jason Van Dyke, with first-degree murder on Tuesday, hours before police released dashboard camera video of McDonald's death under a court order to make it public. It shows McDonald jogging down a street and then veering away from Van Dyke and another officer who emerge from a police SUV drawing their guns. Within seconds, Van Dyke begins firing. McDonald, who authorities allege was carrying a 3-inch knife and was suspected of breaking into cars, spins around and falls to the pavement as Van Dyke keeps shooting.

Van Dyke is being held without bail. His attorney said Van Dyke feared for his life when he fired at McDonald and that the case should be tried in a courtroom, not the court of public opinion.

Police shut down northbound Michigan Avenue at the river, and protesters marched in the street. Protesters also spilled over onto southbound Michigan Avenue, and traffic was eventually stopped in that direction north of the river as well.

"We want to show them how it's done in Chicago," one speaker shouted into a megaphone as the group stopped at Water Tower Place, an urban development that includes a shopping mall. "Let them just feel the empty cash registers," the speaker shouted.

Marchers carried signs calling for justice for McDonald and for the creation of a community police accountability council. They chanted "Justice now" and "If we don't get it, shut it down."

Among the marchers Friday was Frank Chapman, 73, of Chicago, who said the video confirms what activists have said for years about Chicago police brutality.

"That needs to end. Too many have already died," said Chapman, whose organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression, is pushing for an elected, civilian police accountability council.

Johnny Reed, 24, a Chicago native now living in Washington, D.C., said he was back in town for the holidays and "supporting home." He noted there's a lot of energy in the aftermath of the video being released but wondered whether protesters will be able to maintain their momentum.

"I see a lot of activity," he said. "But I'm not sure of the strategy and the actions that we're actually trying to yield here.

"Because ultimately we try to do actions to get a reaction, and so tomorrow and the days following, I'm curious to know what the reaction from our targets is actually going to be," he said.

Officers along the sidewalk formed a barrier of sorts between the protesters and stores and helped shoppers get through the doors. But protesters on the march succeeded in blocking main entrances on both sides of Michigan Avenue for more than three blocks.

Store employees directed shoppers to exit from side doors. When one person tried to get through the front door of Saks Fifth Avenue, protesters screamed at him, shouting, "Shut it down. Shut it down."

Entrances were also blocked at the Disney Store, the Apple Store, Nike, Tiffany & Co., and Neiman Marcus.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Roman Catholic priest and prominent local activist, said he thought Friday's protest would cost businesses money because the publicity surrounding it would discourage shoppers from even venturing into the area.

But shoppers still crowded the sidewalks and seemed to take the disturbance in stride. Some even snapped photos of the crowd.

"Honestly it's the cold that's likely to scare us away first," said Christopher Smithe, who was visiting from London.

Several protesters were seen lying facedown on the ground in handcuffs, but a police spokesman said she hadn't been informed of any arrests.

With the rain and the protests, there seemed to be less foot traffic than on a normal Black Friday, said John Curran, vice president of the Magnificent Mile Association, which represents 780 businesses on North Michigan Avenue.

"The storefronts that were blocked by the demonstrators certainly had an impact on some of the businesses," he said.

All previous marches have been largely peaceful. There have been isolated clashes between police and protesters, with about 10 arrests and only a few minor reports of property damage.

Information for this article was contributed by Sara Burnett of The Associated Press and by Juan Perez Jr., Grace Wong, Kate Thayer, Lolly Bowean and Jeff Coen of the Chicago Tribune.

A Section on 11/28/2015