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Hundreds march through city to protest police-involved deaths

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Chicago on Thursday night, protesting recent high-profile police-involved incidents — including the New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner — shouting chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

About 8 p.m., traffic on the southbound and northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive was stopped as protesters marched down the road. Less than an hour later, police stopped protesters from continuing north on Lake Shore Drive and marchers dispersed in Lincoln Park.

By 9 p.m., the protesters were marching back south on Michigan Avenue. When they reached Wacker Drive, dozens of them lay on the ground.

After 10 p.m., they continued south on Michigan Avenue toward Soldier Field, where the crowd began to dissipate. But a group of about 40 protesters lay down in the street at Michigan and Roosevelt; they were outnumbered by the Chicago Police officers at the scene.

After 11 p.m., police ordered them to disperse and threatened arrest if they did not. Protesters moved west on Roosevelt before heading north on State Street.

About midnight, about three dozen protesters stopped at the intersection of Dearborn and Madison and decided to call it a night.

In the end, four people were arrested for misdemeanor offenses, said Hector Alfaro, a police spokesman. Further details regarding those arrests were not immediately available.

A statement issued early Friday by police described the demonstration as “peaceful” and one that involved “hundreds of participants.”

“Chicago will always protect residents’ rights to free speech and peaceful assembly,” Alfaro said.

Protesters lay down at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive on Thursday night. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
Protesters lay down at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive on Thursday night. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

The protest, which clogged streets in the South Loop early Thursday evening, was just the latest. Last week, after a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, protesters swarmed City Hall and shut down Lake Shore Drive.

While some motorists appeared angered by the traffic snarl the protesters caused Thursday evening, some honked their horns in support.

One woman sitting in an SUV stranded in a large crowd held her hands up and mouthed along with the chant: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Another woman in an SUV, Valerie Colvett, of Chicago, was momentarily stranded near Wacker and Harrison when the protesters marched by. She said she supported their message.

“I think what’s going on in the country is very concerning,” said Colvett, who declined to give an age besides, “closer to 60.”

“I think we need to look at our justice system,” she said. “The grand jury system is archaic.”

Fred Wunderli, a 72-year-old Chicagoan, was waiting for a bus at Michigan and Ontario when the protesters streamed by.

“I wish I could walk with them,” he said.

He said he has felt concern over police treatment of minorities “for some time, but more recently it seems to happen every day.”

“I do think we need a lot of change in the way police treat minorities especially,” he said.

One of the protesters, Briana Hicks, 23, explained why she was marching.

“I’m here because I could be that person,” she said. “With Mike Brown you had all the evidence. You had Eric Garner, who was clearly on camera and choked. He said ‘I can’t breathe’ and still the

police officer gets away with it.

“We’re fed up,” she said. “Who’s going to be next? It could be my dad, my brother, me. It’s an American problem.”