A planned 28-hour protest outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall office ended prematurely Tuesday evening when activists chose to avoid arrest and instead took to the streets for a second night of marching across the city.
Members of the Black Youth Project 100 had gathered on the fifth floor of City Hall on Tuesday morning for a “die-in” — protesting a Missouri grand jury’s decision this week not to charge an officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.
“We’re here today to observe all of the lives that have been lost by police around this country,” said Camesha Jones, communications co-chair of the Chicago chapter. “Every 28 hours, a black person is killed at the hands of the police or a self-appointed vigilante. So we’ll be here for 28 hours.”
For most of the day, the group and some people who were there in solidarity held their ground. The area outside Emanuel’s office swelled with more than 150 people joining in.
But that changed when police ratcheted up a threat to arrest protesters who stayed in the building after hours. Members of the Black Youth Project 100 opted to leave. Once they did, those who were there in solidarity left as well, Erica Gressman, 27, of Chicago, said after exiting City Hall.
By 7 p.m., everyone was out of the building with no tickets issued or arrests made, Chicago Police said.
In a statement, Chicago Police said, we “will always protect residents’ right to free speech and peaceful assembly.”
Police also invited the protesters to “return tomorrow morning when the building reopens, should they wish.”
After leaving the building, the group marched east toward Lake Michigan before heading north. They disrupted traffic along the way, with a fleet of bicycle police keeping tabs on them.
Earlier in the day, protesters lay motionless on the floor outside Emanuel’s office for 4 1/2 minutes — a symbolic gesture of unity, they said, with Michael Brown, the teen killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in August.
“Last night, we shut down Lake Shore Drive. We did that. We marched from 35th Street to downtown. So we did that action part, and today, we’re doing the political part,” said Malcolm London, 21, of Garfield Park, the co-chair of BYP 100’s Chicago chapter.
“Today is about continuing the fight to end the endemic violence and systematic violence against black and brown peoples. We are not here just because the state didn’t indict a man. We are here to indict a system,” London said.
“We have demands, particularly in Chicago, for a civilian review board which does not include [the Independent Police Review Authority], which is not fully independent of the police,” he said. “. . . CPD is the worst police department in the country in terms of transparency and accountability. . . .”
“We also demand that the mayor use his Democratic power — which he has a lot of — to release a public statement to Gov. Jay Nixon and the mayor of St. Louis to end the militarization response to the people who are angry because they are dying,” London said.
Emanuel has yet to do that. Though in a statement he noted that the protests over the past two days have been peaceful.
“Every loss of life is a tragedy and as a community we must all continue to come together in a constructive way — as you have seen here in Chicago,” the mayor was quoted as saying. “The peaceful demonstrations in Chicago reflect our shared work as a community to build a partnership for peace.”
But the protesters accuse Emanuel, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and the City Council of all being part of the problem.
“They need to stop being complicit in the destruction of black bodies,” said Charlene Carruthers, national co-chair of the Black Youth Project 100.