CHICAGO (AP / STMW) - Hundreds of protesters blocked store entrances and shut down 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 stood shoulder to shoulder in a cold drizzling rain to turn the traditional start of the holiday shopping season on Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile into a high-profile platform from which to deliver their message: The killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald - captured on a squad-car video made public earlier this week - 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, shooting and the subsequent investigation, which they say was mishandled.
About 10 protesters made it onto Lake Shore Drive at Michigan Avenue, linking hands and chanting “Sixteen shots!” They halted traffic for about 10 minutes, before police ran toward them. The group then dropped hands and ran, eluding police.
At least four people were arrested — the latest occurring when, after brief scuffles all day, tensions flared late in the afternoon in front of the Banana Republic store, 744 N. Michigan Ave., the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
About 4:45 p.m., police lined up in front of Banana Republic suddenly moved in toward the line of protesters blocking its entrance.
Another pushing and shoving melee ensued and quickly turning violent, as police began grabbing people and throwing them out of the way — including two female reporters wearing visible credentials, representing the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.
When police began grabbing women, one male organizer asked them not to rough up the women. Police continued to push people out of the way. Then one officer grabbed the ailing Violence Interrupter Ameena Matthews, pushed her and she stumbled and fell. The male organizer became upset, got in the officers’ faces, and was arrested.
Tension ran high for 15 minutes. Then protesters motioned they were leaving, crossing the street to take over the entrance of Neiman Marcus.
Before then, three people already had been arrested on simple battery and “traffic-related offenses,” according to the Chicago Police Department. Misdemeanor charges were pending.
While shoppers continued to make their way along sidewalks and the empty street, some major retailers were forced to close, at least temporarily. Among them was the typically swamped Apple store, where dozens of employees in red shirts stood in an otherwise empty two-story space and watched through store windows as protesters linked arms to stop anyone from entering.
It was the largest demonstration in Chicago's streets since police on Tuesday released the video under a court order to make it public.
The footage shows McDonald jogging down a street and then veering away from Officer Jason 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 three-inch knife and was suspected of breaking into cars, spins around and falls to the pavement as Van Dyke keeps shooting.
Prosecutors charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder on Tuesday, hours before the video's release.
Frank Chapman, 73, of Chicago, said the video confirms what activists have said for years about Chicago police brutality.
"That needs to end," Chapman said. "Too many have already died."
Chicago police blocked off roads to accommodate the march down Michigan Avenue, and officers in some areas formed a barrier of sorts between protesters and stores and helped shoppers get through the doors. But protesters succeeded in blocking main entrances on both sides of the street for more than three blocks.
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, among others.
Several protesters were seen lying face-down on the ground in handcuffs. A police spokesman says there were three arrests during the demonstration, two of them traffic related and the third resulted from a battery, but he didn't elaborate.
Shoppers seemed to take the disturbance in stride, with some even snapping 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 with his girlfriend.
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.
A group of protesters also cut off the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s speech on McDonald’s deadly shooting when he spoke outside the historic Water Tower, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
“This is about indicting Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” one called. The ministers countered, “Let us pray, let us pray.”
“We’re not here to pray,” a voice repeated over a megaphone.
They pulled Jackson’s microphone and stormed the stairs, taking over the podium. Someone yanked the cord to the speakers, knocking out Jackson’s audio.
“Indict Rahm!” the protesters shouted as a brief shoving match ensued.
Jackson and others who were scheduled to speak stopped their activities as the masses hijacked Jackson’s presentation and competed with the shoppers who flocked downtown to take advantage of Black Friday sales.
“No justice, no shopping,” some chanted. “Black lives matter, not Black Friday!”
“We want Rahm Emanuel in jail,” others said. They also chanted, “Black out Black Friday” and “The whole system is guilty as hell.”
Throughout the week, protesters have expressed anger over the video of the shooting. They've also harshly criticized the department for its months-long effort to prevent the video from being released and the state's attorney's office for taking more than a year to file charges against Van Dyke, despite having footage of the incident.
Gwen Stuttley, a retired social worker from Hyde Park who brought her daughter and son, and her 9-year-old grandson, who’s visiting from Oklahoma.
Stuttley isn’t typically political, but she led her family up Michigan Avenue chanting in the cold rain: “Indict, convict send those killer cops in jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
“This touched my heart,” she explained. “To watch this video and see that young man shot 16 times and the police said they shot him because they feared for his life?”
“I’m a mother and I have an African-American son and an African-American grandson and it could have been one of them, easily, it could have been one of them, so my concern is grave.”
Joshua pumped a fist in the air in the blowing rain and repeated after his grandmother, “16 shots, 13 months.”
Paxton Murphy of Chicago’s South Loop said she was shoved and “forcibly pushed back as she was trying to enter the Crate and Barrel store, 646 N. Michigan.
“I’m totally, totally sick of these kids getting killed,” she said, “but that has nothing to do with me using the bathroom at the f—— Crate and Barrel.”
An officer stepped in when a protester told Murphy she was an “instigator” who needed to leave the sidewalk in front of Crate & Barrel. The officer said, “She can say what she wants and you can say what you want.”
A block north outside the Tiffany & Co store, 730 N. Michigan, seven protesters locked arms, telling potential customers, “It’s closed,” and chanting, “While you shop, people get shot.”
A Tiffany security guard was trying to help a customer sneak past them when a protester bumped into the customer.
“You can’t elbow her,” an African-American woman walking by called out. “You’re going to get yourself arrested.”
Later, another Tiffany customer demanded to get past protesters but protesters refused. The woman became angry, and tried to push past. Police quickly ran over and tried to help her get into the store. That sparked a pushing and shoving melee between police and protesters, as police pushed and pulled the woman into the entrance where a frantic manager grabbed her I and pulled her inside.
Police and protesters got in each other’s faces for about 10 minutes before the tension quelled. Officers stepped back into their observation line, and protesters again blocked the entrance, chanting, ” Sixteen shots and a cover-up!” And, “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Rahm Emanuel has got to go!”
A man and woman from Omaha, Nebraska, failed to get into the Tommy Bahama store, 520 N. Michigan. They’d been visiting their daughter, who’s a resident in the emergency room at Stroger Hospital.
“This is not right,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We just want to shop. This is our right.”
A couple from Carbondale traveled to came to Michigan Avenue Friday to shop at Zara and Sephora. They didn’t get into either. ”How are they going to get out?” Ohlim Kwon wondered about shoppers trapped inside the Zara, where protesters locked arms, saying “Shut it down.”
When told about McDonald’s death, they were astounded. “That’s crazy,” Enoch Hwang said of the shooting.
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.
Van Dyke is being held without bond. His attorney said Van Dyke feared for his life when he fired at McDonald and that the case should be tried in an actual courtroom, not the court of public opinion.
Van Dyke and other officers were responding to a report of a teen with a knife who had been breaking into cars on the night McDonald was shot.
Also, a spokesman for the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association acknowledged that protestors achieved their goal of hurting retail sales on the biggest day of the year. The area is a gigantic economic engine, employing more than 82,000, recording $11.1 billion in sales and $616 million in tax payments back in 2010. All those numbers are surely much higher now.