President Barack Obama weighed in Wednesday on the Laquan McDonald case, saying he was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the video of the 17-year-old’s slaying and “grateful to the people of my hometown for keeping protests peaceful.”
The president’s written statement from Washington came as hundreds of Chicagoans marched down Michigan Avenue during rush hour on Day Two of protests over the killing of McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
“Sixteen shots,” the crowd screamed in front of the Apple Store as holiday shoppers looked on.
The president cloaked his words in the sentiments of Thanksgiving.
“Like many Americans, I was deeply disturbed by the footage of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald,” Obama said.
“This Thanksgiving, I ask everybody to keep those who’ve suffered tragic loss in our thoughts and prayers, and to be thankful for the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform who protect our communities with honor.
“And I’m personally grateful to the people of my hometown for keeping protests peaceful.”
Many of the Chicago protesters said they’ll continue to demonstrate until Mayor Rahm Emanuel meets with them.
Lamon Reccord, 16, repeatedly came face-to-face with police officers, which he also did during Tuesday night demonstrations. In one instance, he stared at an officer. In several others he screamed: “Shoot me 16 times!”
Reccord said he began organizing protests even before Van Dyke was charged with McDonald’s murder.
“If they didn’t indict him we would have f – – – – – up this city,” said Reccord, who lives in the Chatham neighborhood.
Protesters in front of Trump Tower on Wednesday night. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times
Four people were arrested and charged with misdemeanors in the second round of protests Wednesday. Most protesters said they weren’t there to start fights but to walk in honor of McDonald and hope for change.
“I’m here for accountability,” said Vincent Paul, 44, of Englewood. “We’re not here for a stare down with police. We’re not here for that. That’s not what we’re about.”
Paul said his uncle is a police officer.
The crowd shut down State Street at Randolph for about 15 minutes, as holiday travelers became stranded. The march began about 4:30 p.m. at State and Jackson. By 6 p.m., the group formed a circle at Michigan and Pearson, blocking all traffic.
Protesters climb on a railing on Michigan Avenue on Wednesday night. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times
Later Wednesday, one group of protesters wrapped up efforts for the night outside a police station, and others marched on. Some yelled, “Whose streets? Our streets!” as they made their way down Michigan Avenue and into a park.
Chicago police took two protesters away in handcuffs and taken into custody as the group marched through the financial district.
Late Wednesday, police blocked the entrance and exit to the Kennedy Expressway at Ohio and Ontario in anticipation of protesters.
Two firetrucks and about a dozen squad cars blocked off the entrance ramp, but it was reopened shortly after.
Then a group of about 300 protesters marched through the Near North Side, passing several chic boutiques and busy Division Street bars. About 11:15 p.m., protesters sat down at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Chicago for about half an hour, linking arms as police surrounded them.
Protesters stand at Ohio and Orleans for 16 minutes to remember each of the 16 shots that killed Laquan McDonald. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times
Protesters briefly clashed with police at the intersection of Elm and State as officers on bicycles tried to edge past a circle of protesters, but they were pushed against a parked car.
The group split in two near Chicago and and Rush, with one group going east and one west.
The westbound group stopped traffic exiting the Kennedy Expressway at Ohio by forming another circle. As of 11:45 p.m., traffic was still stopped, and many motorists were honking their horns.
The protesters stood at Ohio and Orleans for 16 minutes. The leaders of the group said their time there signified one minute for every bullet in McDonald’s body.
A woman takes a selfie as protesters block the intersection of Ohio and Orleans Wednesday night. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times
About 12:20 a.m., the two groups reunited at Franklin and Wacker and formed a circle to block traffic at that intersection.
By 12:40 a.m., groups of protesters were splitting off, some of them trying to figure out out how to get a ride home to Humboldt Park and Logan Square.
Protesters blocked the intersection of Ohio and Orleans for 40 minutes Wednesday night, halting traffic trying to exit the Kennedy Expressway. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times
Leaders of about a dozen community groups say protests they are organizing over the next few days will be about more than the killing of McDonald by a white Chicago police officer.
Activist JR Fleming said: “We are angry because this city has declared war on black people.”
The groups met Wednesday night to discuss a unified response to the McDonald’s killing.
After the meeting, about 100 protesters marched roughly half a mile to Chicago police headquarters. A line of officers walked beside them to ensure they remained on the sidewalk.
Demonstrators said that in addition to police shootings, they’ve seen schools and mental health clinics in their communities closed, a lack of jobs and a high rate of unsolved murders.
They said a Black Friday protest aimed at shutting down a major downtown shopping area will send a message by hitting Chicago where it hurts — in the pocketbook.
Contributing: Associated Press
Protesters and police briefly clashed at the intersection of Elm and State on Wednesday night. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times