Hundreds of protesters spilled into the streets of Chicago Monday night, shutting down traffic on Lake Shore Drive but otherwise remaining peaceful.
The group gathered outside Chicago Police Department headquarters at 35th and Michigan ahead of the Ferguson grand jury’s decision. Minutes after it was announced that officer Darren Wilson would not face indictment in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the protesters took to the streets.
They marched down 35th Street toward Lake Shore Drive. Chicago Police followed on bicycles and by squad car, mainly serving to direct protesters without interfering with the traffic disruption. After the protesters exited Lake Shore Drive, they headed north to the Thompson Center. Traffic backed up for miles along the way, as police continually blockaded roads the protesters marched on.
Outside the Thompson Center the crowd coalesced, waved signs and chanted: “We shut s- – – down.”
One speaker perched on a concrete riser praised the large crowd, “Y’all shut down the streets of Chicago. Y’all shut down a highway of Chicago.”
One woman held up a sign that read: “Killer Pigs Must Pay.”
Then the group disembarked north to the La Salle Street bridge, where a phalanx of officers on bike and foot prevented them from crossing the Chicago River.
While stopped at the Franklin and Wells streets bridges, protesters unsuccessfully demanded police let them north of the river.
The crowd shut down traffic along Wacker as it moved east, with several bridges remaining closed even after the group had moved on. As of 11 p.m., the crowd had congregated at Wacker and Wabash and was moving east toward Michigan Avenue.
Protesters raised their hands up in what has become a universal sign of the unrest in Ferguson and shouted: “hands up, don’t shoot” and “black lives matter.” Both were references to Michael Brown, who some witnesses say had his hands up in the air when he was shot by Wilson.
Kelly Hayes, 33, of Chicago, helped organize the protest.
“Police kill with impunity in black and brown communities — that’s just the reality we live in,” Hayes said.
“We have these moments that happen occasionally that galvanize people behind this reality that black and brown lives have been deemed disposable in out culture,” Hayes said. “We need to be angry and awake and aware.”
While Ferguson may have been the catalyst for the group’s outrage, she said Chicago has its own problem with police brutality. Hayes said 89 people have been shot and killed by Chicago Police in the last five years.
“How many times has it been called into question?” she said.
Throughout the march, the protesters remained peaceful and did not appear to damage or vandalize their surroundings.
The crowd gradually broke up as it moved south on Michigan at 11:30 p.m. About 40 protesters were left at midnight when the group stopped around 8th Street.
Marsha Brawner, 49, had stuck out the whole rally. She said she left her son’s basketball game at Niles North High School to come protest as soon as she heard the grand jury’s decision.
“It’s not just (Michael Brown). It’s, you know, Trayvon Martin, it’s one after another after another,” Brawner said. “You don’t have to be in the KKK anymore; you just have to wear a badge.”
Brawner, who lives in Skokie, said she hopes the nationwide protests will help unite people of all races.
“We’re saying the judicial system is made up of corrupt people and is set up for people to fail. How fair is that – that you can shoot somebody that many times and not have one thing come against you?” Brawner said.
Protesters who were left were making final comments around midnight, encouraging the group not to shop on Black Friday in protest.
“We have a police system that is not about protecting black and brown people. It is about protecting business and retail and property and money,” said Kristiana Colon, 28.
Colon said it was important to “divest from a system set up to oppress you.”
Organizers are calling for a 9 a.m. press conference at City Hall Tuesday morning.