Demonstrators call for Fourth of July boycott at Loop march

Demonstrators marched downtown Saturday calling for a boycott of Independence Day celebrations until the country makes greater progress toward racial equality and an end to police brutality.

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A demonstrator raises a fist Saturday as other protesters sit and kneel during a moment of silence for George Floyd, the Minnesota man killed by a police officer May 25, during a demonstration in the Loop that called for a boycott of the Fourth of July until the country makes greater strides toward racial equality.

A demonstrator raises a fist Saturday as other protesters sit and kneel during a moment of silence for George Floyd, the Minnesota man killed by a police officer May 25, during a demonstration in the Loop that called for a boycott of the Fourth of July until the country makes greater strides toward racial equality.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Protestors Saturday afternoon zig-zagged their way through the Loop calling for a boycott of the Fourth of July holiday until the country achieves greater gains toward racial equality and an end to police brutality.

The demonstration was organized by activist Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, who spoke at the rally and quoted Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

“[It is] a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim,” Yosef said, quoting Douglass. “To him, your celebration is a sham.”

While others flocked to parks and backyards throughout the city to celebrate Independence Day, Yosef asked protestors to avoid barbecues after leaving the march.

“There’s not a nation as guilty as America,” he said.

Demonstrators people march Saturday in the Loop during the Boycott 4th of July rally against police brutality.

Demonstrators march Saturday in the Loop during the Boycott 4th of July rally against police brutality.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Baird Dodge, a violinist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performed a musical number before the march began. Dodge said he wanted to use his talents to further the cause of opposing police brutality and systemic racism.

Activist Robert Garcia with Democratic Socialists of America also spoke at the rally and called for the release of undocumented immigrants from detention centers.

“As they wave their flag and celebrate today, there are still people who look like me locked up in cages in this same country,” Garcia told the crowd. “That flag is symbolic of a broken promise of justice denied. Not just to the immigrants that are still in cages ... but of justice denied to my Black brothers and sisters who are killed at the hands of police.”

Robert Garcia of Democratic Socialists of America speaks Saturday during the Boycott 4th of July rally against police brutality.

Robert Garcia of Democratic Socialists of America speaks Saturday during the Boycott 4th of July rally against police brutality.

Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times

Demonstrators marched to the doors of City Hall, where Yosef called for Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to redirect funds from the Chicago Police Department to anti-violence programs.

From City Hall, protestors marched throughout the Loop, held a kneeling circle at State and Randolph streets to memorialize George Floyd and eventually dispersing at Michigan Avenue and Madison Street after about three hours.

Yosef said he intentionally made up the route as he went so that police couldn’t surround the group or redirect traffic.

City officials declined to provide an estimate of the crowd size Saturday.

Michael Oliva, 32, wears a flag as he joined other protesters Saturday at the Boycott 4th of July rally in downtown Chicago.

Michael Oliva, 32, wears a flag as he joined other protesters Saturday at the Boycott 4th of July rally in downtown Chicago.

Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times

A day before, the Rev. Jesse Jackson discussed the sentiment of the march in a conference call, saying Independence Day “leaves black folks uninvited to the party.”

“For us, the American Revolution of 1776 only meant that our lack of humanity would be denied for another 75 years,” Jackson said. “The protestors today are saying, what is your Independence Day to me when I can have a knee put on my neck and [be] ‘lynched’ in public view.”

Despite the turnout Saturday, Yosef said he won’t be satisfied until every person in Chicago supports the cause.

“There’s still gaps in these streets. That means we didn’t do a good job,” he said. “I’ve got to motivate more of these people, and try to find a way to get all our people on this boat.”

Contributing: Maudlyne Ihejirika

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