Dozens of protesters shut down streets in Waukegan on Friday, decrying the decision by Lake County’s top prosecutor that the police shooting of a 17-year-old black boy was justified.
Among those protesting were members of the family of the teen, Justus Howell. They condemned the decision by Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim not to charge Zion Police officer Eric Hill, who fatally shot Howell twice in the back last month.
“They took my baby’s life and they called it justice,” Justus Howell’s mother LaToya Howell said through a bullhorn to the crowd. “We will get justice for our kids and we are not going to stand around and let them shoot us down.”
Officials apparently expected a much larger crowd. They shut down the courthouse at 1 p.m. Friday, and law enforcement officers could be seen on the roof of the building as protestors gathered for the 3 p.m. event. Police were stationed at multiple corners and followed the peaceful marchers everywhere they walked to direct traffic.
Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley spoke to the protesters outside as they confronted him over the decision.
“It was a thorough investigation,” Motley said to the outraged crowd. Motley said he respected and agreed with Nerheim’s decision, but later told reporters that he understood that the crowd had a right to protest.
“My major concern is the safety of the people protesting,” he said, adding that many of the protesters were friends of his.
One of the only run-ins with police came when protester Damonte Martin tried to stop a Pace bus. When police asked him to leave, the crowd surrounded him and eventually police asked the bus to back-up down the street and turn around.
Several of the protesters came from Chicago, including Mark Clements, a torture victim of disgraced former Chicago cop Jon Burge.
“The nation has literally seen him gunned down in his back,” Clements said, referring to video footage of Howell’s death. “Too many people all across the country are losing their lives.”
LaToya Howell said that she wants people to join her in her fight to vindicate the death of her son, who she said was taken much too soon.
“He was about to graduate high school,” she said. “My son loved music, my son loved art. They killed him with his dreams and aspirations.”