Determined to remain a thorn in the side of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a small group of protesters implored thousands of Bears fans funneling into Soldier Field on Sunday to join them in chants calling for the mayor’s ouster. And some did.
Dozens of other Bears fans offered high fives and fist bumps to the group of 12 protesters who gathered on the north side of the stadium, near the steps of the Field Museum about 11 a.m.
One female football fan danced something resembling a jig as cheerful demonstrators chanted “Who’s got to go? Rahm’s got to go!” — occasionally offering a bit of comic relief by substituting the mayor’s name with that of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
“We’ve got to let them know that this is not going to stop until we have change, until we have new leadership, until we have a new [Chicago Police Department] culture and until we have resources in the black communities,” said protest organizer Ja’Mal Green, 20. “And that is when we’ll stop and go back to our regular lives. But until then, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
In recent weeks protesters have descended upon streets in the Loop and the Magnificent Mile. They marched outside of Emanuel’s Ravenswood home on four separate occasions. On New Year’s Day, a small group disrupted brunch at several trendy North Side restaurants.
“We have some bigger, bigger plans,” Green said Sunday, refusing to elaborate.
Supporters in the crowd Sunday had different reasons for expressing solidarity.
“The protests are a good thing, but I think they should focus on the everyday killing in Chicago period, not just police killing blacks, but also us killing each other,” a 34-year-old black woman, who did not want to be named, said as she entered the stadium.
“Even if we do get the police issue corrected, there’s people who can’t even walk their blocks without feeling threatened because of local gang members,” said the woman, who lives in Maywood and works as an IT consultant.
One man chanted with protesters because he hates Emanuel’s red-light camera and speed camera programs and believes each to be shameless money-grabbing ventures.
Protesters were galvanized by the release of a dashcam video showing the October 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke.
The city paid McDonald’s family $5 million before a lawsuit was filed. And Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder the day after the video was released in November.
Many were angered by how long the investigation of McDonald’s death took: 13 months. Others are convinced no charges would have been filed if the video, which the city initially fought to keep under wraps, had not been released.
Since then, allegations against other officers have come to light, more videos have been released and the U.S. Justice Department has launched a probe of the Chicago Police Department.