Hundreds of protesters galvanized by the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald closed a stretch of Michigan Avenue on Friday and blocked would-be customers from entering high-end, Magnificent Mile stores on what’s usually among the busiest shopping days of the year.
Many protesters remained in the area for hours, moving up and down Michigan Avenue, pausing in front of stores, waving flags and signs, and chanting — though by about 9:15 p.m., many of them had decided to call it a night.
For some, the night ended just before 10 p.m., outside the Best Buy at the John Hancock Center — with an exchange of handshakes between protesters and some of the police officers they’d kept busy much of the day.
At least four people were arrested — the latest occurring when, after brief scuffles all day, tensions flared late in the afternoon in front of the Banana Republic store, 744 N. Michigan Ave.
About 4:45 p.m., police lined up in front of Banana Republic suddenly moved in toward the line of protesters blocking its entrance.
Another pushing and shoving melee ensued and quickly turning violent, as police began grabbing people and throwing them out of the way — including two female reporters wearing visible credentials, representing the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.
When police began grabbing women, one male organizer asked them not to rough up the women. Police continued to push people out of the way. Then one officer grabbed the ailing Violence Interrupter Ameena Matthews, pushed her and she stumbled and fell. The male organizer became upset, got in the officers’ faces, and was arrested.
Tension ran high for 15 minutes. Then protesters motioned they were leaving, crossing the street to take over the entrance of Neiman Marcus.
Before then, three people already had been arrested on simple battery and “traffic-related offenses,” according to the Chicago Police Department. Misdemeanor charges were pending.
And even earlier Friday, not long after the start of the protests, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had been cut off as he spoke about the McDonald shooting.
Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition had organized the march, which brought together a variety of groups and community leaders. They had started at Michigan and Wacker. From there, Rev. Jackson had led several hundred people north on Michigan to the Water Tower, where several people were to speak.
Jackson, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and more than a dozen other ministers and leaders crowded onto the steps of the historic tower.
Crowds counted each bullet that struck McDonald. But as they began to pray and speak, several young men with bullhorns approached from all sides, overpowering their sound with chants of “Indict Rahm.”
“This is about indicting Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” one called. The ministers countered, “Let us pray, let us pray.”
“We’re not here to pray,” a voice repeated over a megaphone.
They pulled Jackson’s microphone and stormed the stairs. Someone yanked the cord to the speakers, knocking out Jackson’s audio.
“Indict Rahm!” the protesters shouted as a brief shoving match ensued.
Those who interrupted Jackson, included a group shouting “black power!” and carrying red, green and black flags.
Amid cries of “Send Rahm to jail,” Jackson and the other officials quickly dispersed as the masses hijacked Jackson’s presentation, and competed with the shoppers who flocked downtown to advantage of Black Friday sales.
“No justice, no shopping,” some chanted. “Black lives matter – not Black Friday!”
Others screamed, “16 shots, 13 months,” pointing to how long it took authorities to charge Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the African-American teenager’s death. McDonald’s body was shot 16 times.
“We want Rahm Emanuel in jail,” others said. They also chanted, “Black out Black Friday” and “The whole system is guilty as hell.”
Thenofficers blocked off the entrance of Water Tower Place. Some protesters had apparently tried to get into the popular shopping center.
Maze Jackson said the conflict developed because black parents had begun the protests over McDonald’s death and others sought to grab the limelight at Friday’s event. Jackson singled out Thomas Balanoff, the white leader of the politically powerful Service Employees International Union.
“Explain to me why Tom Balanoff would be at the front of a march for a dead black child,” Maze Jackson said. “Does he have a black child?”
Gwen Stuttley, a retired social worker from Hyde Park who brought her daughter and son, and her 9-year-old grandson, who’s visiting from Oklahoma.
Stuttley isn’t typically political, but she led her family up Michigan Avenue chanting in the cold rain: “Indict, convict send those killer cops in jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
“This touched my heart,” she explained. “To watch this video and see that young man shot 16 times and the police said they shot him because they feared for his life?”
“I’m a mother and I have an African-American son and an African-American grandson and it could have been one of them, easily, it could have been one of them, so my concern is grave.”
Joshua pumped a fist in the air in the blowing rain and repeated after his grandmother, “16 shots, 13 months.”
At one point, shoppers were turned away from entering Water Tower Place. “No justice, no profit,” marchers screamed.
Some protesters yelled at shoppers in front of Topshop, “Don’t shop today!” But the shoppers went in anyway.
There were some demonstrators who linked their arms in front of many stores, refusing to let anyone in. Several shoving matches broke out.
Paxton Murphy of Chicago’s South Loop said she was shoved and “forcibly pushed back” as she was trying to enter the Crate and Barrel store, 646 N. Michigan.
“I’m totally, totally sick of these kids getting killed,” she said, “but that has nothing to do with me using the bathroom at the f—— Crate and Barrel.”
An officer stepped in when a protester told Murphy she was an “instigator” who needed to leave the sidewalk in front of Crate & Barrel. The officer said, “She can say what she wants and you can say what you want.”
A block north outside the Tiffany & Co store, 730 N. Michigan, seven protesters locked arms, telling potential customers, “It’s closed,” and chanting, “While you shop, people get shot.”
A Tiffany security guard was trying to help a customer sneak past them when a protester bumped into the customer.
“You can’t elbow her,” an African-American woman walking by called out. “You’re going to get yourself arrested.”
Later, another Tiffany customer demanded to get past protesters but protesters refused. The woman became angry, and tried to push past. Police quickly ran over and tried to help her get into the store. That sparked a pushing and shoving melee between police and protesters, as police pushed and pulled the woman into the entrance where a frantic manager grabbed her I and pulled her inside.
Police and protesters got in each other’s faces for about 10 minutes before the tension quelled. Officers stepped back into their observation line, and protesters again blocked the entrance, chanting, ” Sixteen shots and a cover-up!” And, “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Rahm Emanuel has got to go!”
About 10 protesters later made it onto Lake Shore Drive at Michigan Avenue, linking hands and chanting “Sixteen shots!” They halted traffic for about 10 minutes, before police ran toward them. The group then dropped hands and ran, eluding police.
Twenty more protesters blocked the doors of theApple Store, 679 N. Michigan.
“I understand what you guys are doing but I want to shop,” Bruno Behrend of River Forest told them.
“This is an example of white privilege,” someone yelled.
Then La’Mont Williams, 27, told him: “This store is closed because your life matters. We are doing an economic boycott.”
Williams of the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood blocked the door. Behrend and his family eventually gave up and left, prompting cheers from the protesters.
By then, store personnel had made the decision to not let anyone inside.
Protester Anthony D. Bryant, 21, said he felt his activism was needed for the broader public “to come to understand what people are going through.”
“We value our lives more than money in our pockets,” he said.
A man and woman from Omaha, Nebraska, failed to get into the Tommy Bahama store, 520 N. Michigan. They’d been visiting their daughter, who’s a resident in the emergency room at Stroger Hospital.
“This is not right,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We just want to shop. This is our right.”
A couple from Carbondale traveled to came to Michigan Avenue Friday to shop at Zara and Sephora. They didn’t get into either. ”How are they going to get out?” Ohlim Kwon wondered about shoppers trapped inside the Zara, where protesters locked arms, saying “Shut it down.”
When told about McDonald’s death, they were astounded. “That’s crazy,” Enoch Hwang said of the shooting.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Police released a graphic dashcam video that captured the 16 shots fired by Van Dyke in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged the same day with murder, and is being held without bail in the Cook County Jail.
Outrage and protests followed the court-ordered release of the footage. There were protests in the Loop Tuesday and Wednesday, in addition to Friday’s marches.
James Hinton, a 49-year-old auto worker at the Ford plant on the South Side, came to the Michigan Avenue march with his 9-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. He said he was irate that it took 13 months and the impending release of the videotape to charge Van Dyke and remove him from the force.
Van Dyke was on desk duty, still getting his $84,000 annual salary, until he was charged.
“He stayed on the desk working for a whole year of pay,” Hinton said. “Rahm hollers about the city needing money, taxes and everything else, but those were taxpayer dollars paying [Van Dyke’s] salary.”
“This is my first protest and it feels kind of good to get justice,” Hinton’s daughter said. “It feels exciting.”
Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout